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YESAB opposes 2nd try for controversial Yukon placer mine

Prospector Nicolai Goeppel says he made changes to his application to ease concerns about effects on the Carcross Caribou Herd, but the screening agency says any threat to the herd's habital should be rejected.

The environmental screening agency says any threat to the Carcross Caribou Herd's habitat should be rejected

The population of the Carcross Caribou Herd is estimated to be around 775. (Murray Lundberg)

Yukon prospector Nicolai Goeppel is facing a big obstacle in his second attempt to begin placer mining in the Judas Creek area about 70 kilometres southeast of Whitehorse.

The Teslin office of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) is recommending that Goeppel's project not be allowed to proceed.

It says it "determined that significant adverse cumulative effects to the Carcross Caribou Herd cannot be mitigated."

The Yukon government's Energy, Mines and Resources Department has 30 days to issue a decision that will either accept the recommendation, reject the recommendation or vary it.

Goeppel's previous application to placer mine in the area was rejected by the government in 2016.

Nicolai Goeppel says he has spent almost 15 years trying to get to a point where he can begin mining his gold claims in the Judas Creek area. (Dave Croft/CBC News)

The new application reduced the number of claims to be mined from 45 to 15, the period of mining was reduced to five years from 10 years, and the timing of the operations was adjusted to minimize impact on the caribou.

But the YESAB review says the herd, currently estimated to consist of about 775 caribou, is vulnerable. It adds that one of its biggest threats is the loss of habitat, and that Goeppel's claims lie in habitat critical to the herd and on a migratory route.

Goeppel said after the first application was rejected that he met with officials from the Yukon's Environment Department. He said they laid out some things he could have put in the application to mitigate effects on the caribou.

Goeppel, who is also a geologist, said his prospecting at the site shows a potentially rich placer mine so he decided to make changes to his proposal and apply again.

The Carcross Caribou Herd ranges to the southeast of Whitehorse. (Yukon Environment)

"It's hard to walk away," he said.

Goeppel said his plans are of a relatively small scale so if they are too risky, then that has implications for the large chunk of southwest Yukon that takes in the Carcross Caribou Herd's range.

"If this doesn't go through, really, it's a... you should put a moratorium or definitely a restriction in the area because it's not fair to people spending. It's going on almost 15 years that I've been working in there," said Goeppel.

He said he wants to look into whether it's possible to ask for a second opinion on his proposal from an independent body.

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