The Yukon government has no policy to exchange mining claims for title to land.
But that is exactly what Dawson placer miner Mike Heisey is hoping to do with his two controversial claims in the Dredge Pond subdivision.
And the territorial government has confirmed it is considering that proposal.
Heisey recently applied to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board to renew his permits to work the claims.
The two claims predate the law against staking within municipal boundaries. They butt up against residential properties in the Klondike Valley subdivision, just south of downtown Dawson.
As well as being in a residential neighbourhood, the claims straddle the Klondike River, which is a source of drinking water and salmon habitat. The river is travelled by tourists and is also important to wildlife.
On March 2, the assessment board requested more information from Heisey, including details on his plans to ford the river.
After receiving no response within the 28-day time limit, the board withdrew the project application and stopped the assessment.
In a telephone interview earlier this month, Heisey admitted he wasn’t too worried the application was withdrawn because as far as he was concerned talks with the Yukon government about the land had already begun.
But the territory doesn’t have a policy to allow for an exchange of claims for land, said John Cole, manager of client services for the land management branch.
“I’ve talked to (Heisey) directly and I’ve indicated to him that we don’t have a policy that accommodates that at this point and time,” he said.
But the issue has gone to senior officials at the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, with meetings scheduled to take place “imminently,” Cole said.
There has never been a proposal like this put forward during Cole’s five years with the branch, he said.
“There’s just no policy to do it.”
There have been squatter programs in the past, which may have considered something similar, but there is no precise law to exchange mining claims for title to the land, he said.
Certain factors with Heisey’s claims will likely be considered, such as the fact his claims are located within a residential neighbourhood.
But the precedent set by negotiating an exchange could have implications for the future of staking, as well as the territory’s ability to persuade miners to give up controversial claims.
If Heisey does give up his claims, he would not be able to stake new ones in the same area, thanks to the 2003 territorial order against that.
If he were given title, he would not be able to mine on that land without the subsurface rights a mining claim provides.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org