Stony Creek, More Valuable Than Gold

 CPAWS Yukon supports citizens concerned about the impact a placer mining project could have on their drinking water

Written by Laurence Fox, Conservation Coordinator | April 2, 2024

Would you want someone mucking around for gold in the water that you and your family drink? Many residents of Mendenhall have said they most certainly do not.

CPAWS Yukon stands alongside members of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Kwanlin Dün First Nation, along with other residents of Mendenhall who have recently expressed deep concern around a proposed placer mining project at Stony Creek.

Map of the proposed project location, from the YESAB Registry document #2024-0001-0040 Map Package.
Map of the proposed project location, from the YESAB Registry document #2024-0001-0040 Map Package.

Located around 11 km northeast of Mendenhall and 52 km northwest of Whitehorse, the proposed project is currently under review with the Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB). The claims fall within the traditional territories of both Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. To get at the gold thought to be below, the project would have to divert up to 1700 meters of Stony Creek which residents say is a vital source of drinking water, as well as ecologically sensitive habitat for wildlife.

Residents expressed their opposition to the proposed project during the public comment period, worried it will negatively impact water quality and damage the community. If the project went forward, residents say they would be forced to use water from the community fill station, which some say is of poor quality, or haul water in from Whitehorse. Others have expressed concern about the proposed project’s impact on subsistence activities like hunting, fishing, and berry picking.

Of special concern is Stony Creek’s importance as habitat for Chinook salmon fry, a species already struggling under numerous other pressures, including industrial development, climate change, and overfishing. Chinook salmon runs have been declining for decades, prompting serious conservation focus on the abysmally low numbers of returning fish among many Yukon First Nations, as well as the Department of Oceans and Fisheries and the Yukon government.

Google Earth satellite image of Stony Creek.
Google Earth satellite image of Stony Creek.

We believe potential environmental, community, and cultural impacts of mining at Stony Creek far outweigh the monetary quest for gold extraction. Residents of the impacted community and members of the First Nations on whose traditional territory this project would take place have powerfully voiced their concerns—and, in many cases, outright opposition to—this project. We hope YESAB heeds them.

Listen to a moving interview with a resident who lives near the creek and worries that mining would mean the end of a lot of stories, gatherings, and life.

CBC News released a great article based on the interview.

The comment period for the project recently closed, which means YESAB is now preparing their recommendation based on the input provided by the proponent, First Nations, community members, and other parties.

UPDATE JUNE 5, 2024: We’re thrilled to share that YESAB recommended against the proposed placer mine on Stony Creek because its impacts cannot be mitigated. YESAB even recognized the profound effect mining here would have, with their report stating, “this [project] is likely to result in a compromised ability for youth and future generations to pursue their cultural and contemporary activities.” We’re hopeful this means the project will not go ahead.

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