Whitehorse seeks interim mineral staking ban
The City of Whitehorse wants a temporary ban on mineral staking within city limits, as it works on addressing residents' concerns about the prospects of mining activity in their neighbourhoods.
Municipal officials say they are writing a letter to the Yukon government asking for a temporary ban so both governments can have time to work out which areas of the city are appropriate for mining, and which areas should be permanently off-limits.
Mining activity began over a century ago in Whitehorse, where there are hundreds of active mineral claims currently covering about one-third of the city.
There are no restrictions on where those claims can be staked, city manager Dennis Shewfelt said.
"You can literally stake effectively anywhere in town. There is no prohibition on staking anywhere," Shewfelt told CBC News.
"Logic dictates you don't stake someone's private lot," he added. "Staking areas are generally confined to areas … like the ski trail area, which is basically an extension of what is commonly known as the Copper Belt."
Shewfelt said the city and the Yukon government have had intermittent talks over the years about mineral staking within city limits, but public concern usually spikes when some high-profile staking occurs in residential neighbourhoods and recreational areas.
For example, the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club has raised concerns over the past couple of years about mineral claims being staked over its Mount McIntyre trail system.
But the presence of active mineral claims within Whitehorse city limits does not mean mining can happen right away, Shewfelt said.
"First of all, it has to be allowed for under the official community plan, in that particular area," he said.
"It has to also have the appropriate zoning to allow for, say, extraction in that particular area. And then subsequent to that, there's then the development permit needed in order to actually do the work."
Shewfelt said the public wants certainty on the issue, so the city and the Yukon government hope to work out those areas that would be off-limits to staking.