Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm Brad Gemmer. I started Gem Steel back in the early 1980s and actually have been in business since the 1970s. I know I don't look that old, but it's there anyway.
I started working in the Arctic in the early 1980s—about 1980-81—with Echo Bay's Lupin Mine, for which I did most of the plate steel work and all the big orange tanks that people use as...I don't know what you call that.
Anyway, they are there in Lupin, and since then, I've evolved to most of the major mines in western Canada, as well as all of the diamond mines, which have fuel storage that I supplied. Subsequent to that, we supplied Newmont up near Cambridge Bay, and as well we have just completed the first tankage up at the north end of Baffin Island.
I feel the best way to address the plight of the mining industry would be to go into a circumstance, which I have as kind of a sideline in conjunction with the business and the effort to have a placer mine as well as develop mining equipment to sell to placer miners both in Canada as well as internationally. There are companies in Vancouver; one is Goldlands. There are Knelson concentrators and Falcon Concentrators, all of which have been derived from placer miners trying to develop better equipment.
I started to be involved with the placer mine in the Yukon, in the southwest corner of the Yukon, about 12 years ago—initially with a partner and a couple of years ago I made a deal to take his position over. Subsequently I have been developing some pretty good machinery that will both enhance recovery and leave a cleaner footprint on the ground.
Everything was fine until I applied for a renewal of my licence. I applied in November of 2009 and I received the licence in 2010 in June. The licence was fine except it said that I could only go in there between the June 15 and July 15, which is the equivalent of telling your wife she can only go for groceries in one month of the year and she's going to have to pack and buy everything necessary....
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to discriminate against the women with that remark, but you would have to buy and plan every repair, everything you needed, and everything you might need in anticipation of only having a month of access. In addition to that, the access that was provided was in the flood time of the river, when the river that I have to cross is impassable.
The cause of this problem was an intervention by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which decided that after 12 years of going across the Tatshenshini River, without flaws, implications, or any detrimental effect on anything, they didn't want us crossing anymore.
We went—when I say “we”, that is myself and my advocate—to see the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and we were promised last year and all through the winter, at least six times, that they would provide a letter of intervention to the water board that would allow expanded access across the river.
Gold was found on Dollis Creek, which is where the claims are, in 1926. Some of the biggest nuggets in the Yukon came out of that creek and it employed many people for many years. I had a crew of five or six people up there when I could work.
If we kept trying to get some assistance out of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, things actually kept tightening up rather than opening up. I had built a large rubber-tired vehicle to safely cross the river in an area that was away from the land claims area of the Champagne fisheries and wouldn't be bothering anybody, but it was a much more severe place to cross than where everybody else crosses, which is at the point called Dalton Post. It would be about 15 miles or 20 kilometres north of the B.C. border.
Anyway, I built this larger rig to cross the river there, and as it turned out, the recommendation by the fisheries department was not only that I had to use that, and that was the only thing I could use to cross the river, but now everybody else was going to have to have a big rubber-tired rig too. Now, they have yet to come up with any kind of evidence of any detrimental impact on the environment, on the fish habitat, or the fish migration. There are only suppositions of what might happen, in spite of the fact that in order to count the fish, they put the fish into what they call a weir and the fish that escape—which is actually called the escapement—is what they use to count the fish. That probably doesn't hurt anything, but the passage of this vehicle takes three or four minutes, maybe five minutes if you're going slow enough, and it would be a pretty trivial amount out of a 1,400-minute day, and when you figure that out for a week or two, it's insignificant at the best of times.
The problem with all of this is that you have basically no way to argue with a person who's been planted in that kind of a position and wishes to pursue his own private agendas. There's no recourse. You have no way to deal with that. As I said, the circumstances just get progressively worse.
Now, as it is we're basically—and when I say “we”, I mean my employees and me—just hoping to find a way to get the Department of Fisheries to go back to where it was before, as this fellow who is in charge there now states that he plans to have the Yukon regulated within three years. That would mean that every mining company in the Yukon would have to address every stream that it passes in order to try to accomplish anything it wants to do. And that's not just the mining industry, but also the surveyors, the prospectors, and even the camps and everything—any effort to get in, other than maybe on the ice in a river in the wintertime.
They've suggested that I could use an ice bridge. It's almost as if they're hoping I will try to do something that foolish and have a catastrophe so that they can point their finger at me. With an ice bridge and a fast-flowing river like the Tatshenshini, what happens is the ice is frozen at maximum water flow. In order for an ice road or bridge to work, you have to have the buoyancy of the water underneath to support anything that goes over it. As soon as the water goes down and starts to freeze, you've got huge caverns, and if people attempted to go across and fell through, they'd be gone and you'd never see them again.
This is the kind of advice we're receiving, as you can see in some of these documents that you either have or will be getting.
I can't really say much more about my situation there, other than that it's impossible to work within dates outlined on a calendar if you lose an engine or you need parts or you need a.... We have a legislated requirement to even cycle the crew every 26 days, I believe, in the Yukon. It changes from one jurisdiction to the other.
We cycle in the north. I have the diamond mines, and we try to do it every three weeks, but we can get permission for extended times. Nevertheless, people have to get out when they're in isolated areas.
The dates we've been provided are totally unworkable, and I believe Fisheries knows that and has the intention of driving and setting a number of precedents by locking me out of the claims, one of which is a free miner's access to his ground. That blocked, up until very recently, a through access, but it's still considered part of the Yukon highway system. Some of the cattle drives and such that went up to support miners in the gold rush times came through that very road. It even has its own name: the Dalton Trail.
This particular Fisheries individual—and I'm not saying he's by himself or with a group, because I don't know—has decided to close that to only one person, and that's me. Anybody else can go across that river at any time they wish without restrictions.
If I have a little more time I can make some comments on the rest of the Arctic, if you like, or whatever you think, Mr. Chairman.