Stopping Mining in Tombstone Park

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

This month, after years of public consultations and negotiations, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in, with the support of environmental groups like CPAWS-Yukon, succeeded in getting 216,000 acres in the Yukon set aside as a park. Tombstone Territorial Park is an area of extraordinary beauty, that contains may sacred sites and places of archaeological significance.

The establishing of the park was fought by the Yukon Prospectors and Developers Association and the Yukon Chamber of Mines. In a letter to the Yukon premier published in The Whitehorse Star (November 9, 1999), they claim that the Tombstone area contains "rocks with some of the highest known mineral potential in the Yukon — known high-grade gold occurrences — (and) one of the largest undeveloped uranium resources in North America."

In the face of this, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in and thousands of people in the Yukon have decided that the highest and best use of the land is not mining but wilderness.

Now the nascent park is under threat from a tiny exploration company, Canadian United Minerals (CUM), centred in Dawson City. They have been exploring in the Tombstones since 1996 and have staked a number of claims there. In December they made four applications for new permits to carry out advanced mining and exploration in the Park. They also have plans for an all-season 46 kilometre road beside the Blackstone River through the middle of the Park.

After the Tr'ondek Hwech'in, CPAWS-Yukon and MiningWatch intervened to stop the CUM permits, the applications have been reduced to one, and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has agreed to hold public consultations on the permit.

This is an important land-use campaign, and we are proud to be part of it.