The Yukon government has rejected a proposal to mine 34 placer claims east of the Dome Road in Dawson City.
In a decision document released this week, the government explained that placer miner Darrell Carey’s proposed project was rejected because it would disturb or destroy local ski trails.
However, the government insists that the decision “does not mean that mining activity cannot occur in the area, provided suitable mitigation can be identified and incorporated into the project design.”
The document urges Carey to consult with the Yukon government, the City of Dawson, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation and affected community groups before submitting a new proposal.
But Carey’s agent, Randy Clarkson, believes the government is effectively expropriating Carey’s claims without compensation. He said there’s little chance Carey can submit a new proposal that will be acceptable to everyone involved.
At issue are local ski trails maintained by the Klondike Active Transport and Trails Society (KATTS) that overlap some of the claims. Clarkson said Carey offered to build new ski trails to replace those he would have to dig up, but that wasn’t good enough. He said keeping all the trails intact would leave nowhere for Carey to mine.
Now, he believes the government is leaving the door open for Carey to reapply just to save face. He compared it to a government deciding that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline could only be built if it were suspended from zeppelins.
“Of course, you and I and almost anybody else can read between the lines and see that that’s not an option,” he said. “It’s a no.”
KATTS president Cathie Findlay-Brook said she’s “ecstatic” about the decision, but added that she would work with Carey again if he approaches the group before submitting a new proposal. She said KATTS is willing to see some of the ski trails disturbed by mining, but not a core section of flat trails that is most heavily used by skiers.
Dawson City Mayor Wayne Potoroka said he’s also pleased with the decision. “We’re happy that the concerns of area residents were listened to.”
But he acknowledged that it “might be tough” for Carey to find a way to mine beneath the ski trails. “You don’t find those sorts of conditions elsewhere,” he said. “I don’t know if you could ever recreate that.”
Carey went to court earlier this year to retain ownership of 25 of the 34 claims, which he previously owned with Rod Adams. He eventually outbid Adams with a bid of more than $752,000.
Clarkson said Carey took out two mortgages on his home and borrowed from friends and family to put up the bid, only to have his project denied.
“He’s shocked. He’s ruined,” Clarkson said. “He’s put his whole life savings and all of his dreams and hopes into this ground.”
Clarkson also said he believes that if the Yukon Party were still in power, Carey’s proposal would have been approved.
But Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai said that’s unfair, because the decision was made by the department, not by politicians.
“I find that comment a bit disturbing,” he said.
Pillai said he plans to meet with Carey and the other parties to try and find a solution to this issue. He also plans to meet with the Association of Yukon Communities, the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association and affected First Nations in the new year to develop an action plan to address the larger issue of mining claims within municipalities.
In September, before being elected premier, Klondike MLA Sandy Silver said a Liberal government would compensate miners for the work they’ve done on claims in areas that can no longer be mined.
Both Potoroka and Findlay-Brook said compensation should be considered in this case.
But Pillai wouldn’t say whether the new Liberal government will consider compensating Carey if he can’t find a way to mine his claims.
“On the Darrell Carey scenario, I believe it’s really premature to start a discussion about compensation,” he said. “I believe … he can get to a place with our support where he can have success. Talking about compensation on this particular file at this point would be really inappropriate.”
Still, Clarkson said Carey’s not interested in reapplying right now. “There’s a fair amount of effort and cost in that,” he said.
He hopes the government will ultimately buy Carey out.
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org