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NEWS: Gold rush threatens Yukon rivers, Peel watershed

In a two-part series, the Toronto Star reports, “In the new Gold Rush (in the Yukon), …most (stakers) are working for a few large corporations racing to stake out vast tracts of the Yukon… To the pleasure of some mining companies, you don’t have to go any farther than a city park or a neighbor’s property to pound some wooden stakes into the ground and, with some quick paperwork and a small fee, own the rights to any riches that may lay underground.”

“Shawn Ryan…struck pay dirt in the White Gold Area, where the White and Yukon Rivers converge, around 100 kilometres southwest of Dawson. Ryan estimates there’s at least $2 billion in gold to be mined there. …There are some 30 companies now exploring around the White Gold Area alone, basking in the reflected glow of Ryan’s gold…”

“Most stakers work for companies trying to dig up gold in what’s called quartz, or hard-rock mining. It requires a lot of capital, equipment and chemicals to exploit veins of the precious metal that can run some 30 metres below ground in the Dawson district.”

In the second article, the Toronto Star notes, “Park officers (now add) voracious mining companies to the list of threats to fend off from (Wolf Creek Campground), the popular retreat in an old growth spruce forest (on the edge of Whitehorse) overlooking the Yukon River (in a zone the city) has designated environmentally sensitive.”

“(Vancouver-based) Arcturus Ventures Inc. …has staked its claim on the park… It wants to drill on land the city insists is out of bounds for mining.”

“Environmental activists celebrated an important but limited victory in February 2010 when the government withdrew the staking of new mineral claims in 77,000 spectacularly beautiful square kilometres of the Peel Watershed for a year. The moratorium, which also covers oil, gas and coal rights, may only be a temporary reprieve for the wilds where the Wind, Snake and Bonnet Plume Rivers flow at the top of the Rocky Mountain chain, along Yukon’s northeastern border.”

“A draft land-use plan call for 80 per cent of the watershed to be protected, but the government wants to give resource companies more free rein to develop the area. …Mining companies are now staking claims up to the watershed’s edge…”

Part one of the series is now on-line at http://www.thestar.com/canada/article/991429.