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By A.J. Roan
Mining News 

Whitehorse hearing to ban all mining in city

North of 60 Mining News - March 15, 2024

 

Last updated 3/15/2024 at 4:52am

City officials hold meeting to discuss potential amendment to City Plan, includes complete prohibition of mineral exploration and mine development within city limits.

CBC; Meribeth Deen

All the seats at Whitehorse City Council chambers on Monday evening were filled as members of the public gathered for a hearing on zoning bylaw changes which would prohibit mining activities within city limits.

In the face of the ongoing green energy transition, in which critical metals such as copper have been labeled as the "new oil," members of the public occupied every seat within the Whitehorse City Council chambers on Monday evening as it discussed the possibility of completely banning all mining activities within city limits.

On Feb. 12, the Whitehorse Council passed a motion making mineral extraction and exploration a "conditional use" of the land. This was followed by a proposition that would prohibit all mining activities except remediation efforts within city limits.

As reported by CBC Lite, city locals have increasingly become concerned with the adverse effects of nearby mining activities and have expressed an ultimatum to mining companies regarding their influence over their homes.

Skeeter Wright, who lives near the Alaska Highway just south of Whitehores, told the council during the open discourse that the motion would not give the city enough power to say no to a mining project that it did not want.

Genessee Keevil, who lives on Squatters Road about five kilometers (three miles) from downtown Whitehorse, said that territorial legislation favors mining companies. She also warned that if the city refused to give work permits, companies like Gladiator Metals Corp. – which is currently the largest active exploration company in the district – could ask for compensation.

Others who have also asked the city to ban mining said that drilling could increase the levels of radon gas in residential areas, while others focused their statements on potential impacts mining activities could have on drinking water, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.

While founded concerns, two geologists in attendance spoke up to defend their industry in the face of a large and passionate gathering of people who support a full ban on mining in the city.

"I'm hearing a lot of distaste for an industry that is painted in a very negative way," said Danielle Heon. "I'm a geologist and I feel I work in a very ethical way, and I know a lot of people who do also – so I'm kind of taken aback."

Heon said she worked on the city's mineral assessment in 1997, "They took the results of that exercise and implemented it in their land use planning."

"They looked at areas of high mineral potential, and decided not to put residential areas there and devoted those areas to industrial activity."

She urged the council to obtain more information about all areas of concern-including the law-before deciding to move forward with any kind of mining prohibition in the city.

Heon was followed by colleague Rick Zorans.

"I'm a geologist, and I had something prepared to say, but like Danielle I could feel the emotion and I feel the same way, like totally outnumbered."

Zorans added, in his experience, it takes 30 years of exploration before a mine could be created.

"That was in the mid 90s in British Columbia, but I think these days it's like one in 100 years."

Zorans emphasized the difference between exploration and mining and urged the council to allow the work being done by Gladiator Metals to continue.

The city is expected to publish a report compiling public feedback on proposed mining prohibition in early April.

The proposed ban on mining would happen under an amendment to the Official Community Plan.

This would include the replacement of section 13.3 which currently states "Any mineral development, including to maintain existing mineral claims in good standing, or for remediation or reclamation activities, is subject to all applicable legislation, regulatory requirements, and City bylaws," would instead be replaced with "Mineral exploration and mine development within the City of Whitehorse is prohibited. This applies to all classes of exploration activities, as well as the development of a mine, but does not apply to remediation activities being undertaken to address environmental impacts from past mining activities."

While no statement has yet been made by Gladiator, it can be expected that representatives of the company may do so or reach out to Whitehorse legislators to present their views.

Given that the company has spent upwards of several million to continue exploring in the rich copper fields of the Whitehorse Copper Belt and has already begun an extensive 10,000-meter drill program for the year, a ban on mining would immediately cease all present and future operations, something that the copper explorer would most likely be very remiss to have happen.

 

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