By Melinda Munson
Mayor Andrew Cremata signed his last ordinance on Oct. 5 as his term ended. Ordinance 23-23, resurrected by Assemblymember Deb Potter after first being proposed by Cremata in June, requires “that all bulk ore imported or exported through or to the Port of Skagway must be transported in sealed containers.”
The ordinance also states that a percentage of “ore shipment related revenues be set aside” for an environmental disaster related to the shipment of ore or other hazardous material. The amount is to be set by resolution at a later date.
The ordinance passed unanimously. Four residents spoke in favor of the legislation at the Sept. 21 first reading. Two more Skagwegians voiced support for the proposal at the Oct. 5 second reading.
Tom Cochran, former port manager and current longshoreman, shared his concerns at the second reading.
“… I’m not really in favor of this ordinance, because I think it sends the wrong signal to the industry,” he said.
Cochran stated he was worried switching to containerization could delay the transportation process by days, forcing the ship to be in port longer.
“If you look at our ship schedule, and you look at the 2024 ship schedule, when would you get an ore ship in here? … if you increase the time to load an ore ship over a 24 hour window, I think you’re sending a signal to the mining community and industry that you’re not going to load ore out of Skagway. And I hate to see that signal being broadcast.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking and researching containerized mineral shipments, and those are all valid concerns,” Assemblymember Deb Potter said in response to Cochran.
“It will be more difficult and it will take a little more time … It ensures that no contamination happens again. Basically, since the Klondike Gold Rush began, Skagway has faced multiple different legacy contamination – this whole town was a fuel tank dumping ground. It’s on our watch now,” Potter concluded.
Assemblymember Orion Hanson, also spoke to Cochran’s comments.
“We discussed logistical issues that Mr. Cochran brought up, I think at three or four different Ports and Harbors meetings,” Hanson said. “I definitely voiced the same concerns that I don’t think we entirely understand the containerization aspect in a cold weather climate.”
“Within the next seven years, I think you could see the mining industry change a lot. And we might have to adapt with that and revisit Ordinance 23-23. But, I’m not going to be stuck in the mindframe that because we don’t know how it’s going to work in the future, that I would vote against this now. Because I think there’s a way that this can be adapted and it can work.”
Hanson noted that the new Ore Dock redesign allows a ship to be in port for multiple days, at the same time allowing a cruise ship in and out.
Over the past few years, Assembly members and municipal staff hosted Yukon government officials to discuss mining and Skagway representatives have visited Canada for events such as Association for Mineral Exploration Round-up.
“I tested positive for lead when I was three years old in Skagway. So this is not something I take lightly,” Hanson said.