April 2 2020
RE: KPMA Covid-19 Response
On behalf of the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association (KPMA), I would like to share some information about how our industry is dealing with Covid-19 pandemic as we start to prepare for the 2020 mining season.
The majority of Yukon placer miners live in the Territory, at least seasonally, and have done so for decades if not multiple generations. Of course there are exceptions to this, but MOST miners are Yukoners. I myself am a third-generation placer miner, my sons are fourth generation. Placer mining in the Yukon is fundamental to who I am, who I have become, and is shaping my sons to be the men they are today.
For me, placer mining gives me the opportunity to live and work in camp for the summer with my sons, working on the land, being outside, and being respectful to the environment. I follow the rules set in place through permits, legislations and regulations that all operations must follow. When I’m lucky I find enough scratch to pay for us to have a few weeks off in the winter and leave my home in Sunnydale to get some sun. I like to work hard and play hard, I am an equipment operator, mechanic, welder, bookkeeper, cook, housekeeper, gardener, inventor, historian, environmentalist and perhaps a less than decent therapist, but you’d have to ask my employees that. I volunteer my time with search and rescue, as a Ranger, and at the Dawson Sled Dawgs club. I play hockey. I buy my groceries, fuel, parts and clothing locally as much as I can, because I understand my purchases go to help local businesses survive and families raise their children here in the Yukon. I enjoy a beverage and hand of blackjack in the summer at Gerties, and a nice boat ride up the river. If you look at the placer mining community, we are all very similar.
What does this have to do with KPMA’s response to Covid-19? Placer miners need to work. We need to be able to get out and open our camps, clear snow and perform maintenance on equipment. We need to get ready to open our summer homes on the creeks so our coworkers can come back to them. This season we will all be doing things with greater attention, like social distancing, lots of care (and more bleach) when it comes to cleaning, and careful management of personnel that may need to self-isolate in appropriate facilities.
All placer miners are unique, but we have many similarities. In my case, my multi-year (and multi-generation) seasonal employees live in their own trailers or buildings in camp. While I may not have workers coming from outside the Yukon myself, it would be very easy for me to offer safe and acceptable self-isolation options to my employees that would not risk any camp or community members. Other miners are planning similar methods of bringing people to their mine site with all the care and due diligence this decision demands. Miners do not want to see Covid-19 in any Yukon community and we are doing all we can to prevent it.
For operators coming home for the summer from out of Territory, the KPMA is asking they drive directly to their home or camp with at least 2 weeks of fuel and supplies to ensure safe self-isolation if they can, or to contact the authorities and get assistance on where they can safely isolate before continuing their journey to their mine site. We are providing policies and guides to members that explain how they can effectively do this, contact the KPMA office for more information. Several of us are currently doing a 14-day isolation in camp, our homes or other approved facilities. Others have finished the 14 day isolation and are back to social spacing in camp and avoiding coming to town. Our communities may not realize this has already started as most miners are doing a great job of following the rules in their own quiet ways.
As an association, the KPMA has made policies and procedures available to our membership to help miners plan on safely getting themselves and their workers to camp without having any physical contact along the way. We are sending weekly newsletters to the membership with all the most up to date information we have. Our staff is working to contact miners and talk to them about their plans and how the KPMA can help, also talking to the public about their concerns.
Across the world people are reconnecting with the idea of community. I am so grateful to be a part of one that is strong, resilient and tight knit. I would like everyone to realize that the KPMA is working with the territorial medical team, Yukon Government, and our Communities to make sure we are doing the best we can to ensure our Yukon remains a safe place to be, while still being able to provide an economy for Yukoners that will help families and businesses get through these unprecedented times we all face together.
Will Fellers, President, Klondike Placer Miners’ Association