A star from the reality TV series Gold Rush (formerly Gold Rush Alaska) was in territorial court this morning facing charges under Yukon’s Waters Act.
Anton (Tony) Beets is facing two charges for depositing waste in a water management area and failing to report it to an inspector.
Tamarack Inc. is facing the same charges, as well as two charges for failing to comply with a type B licence. Beets is one of three directors of the mining company.
According to the Waters Act, the latter two offences could result in a fine of up to $15,000, imprisonment for a term of up to six months, or both.
The charges come from an incident shown on the episode “Hundreds of Ounces” from season five of the reality series, which originally aired in February 2015.
In it, gasoline is poured into a pond with a dredge by the Indian River in Dawson City, and lit on fire.
In a 30-second clip from the episode played in court, the narrator explains, “While he waits for the pond to drain, Tony gives the dredge a Viking baptism to change its luck.”
Mark Favron, a welder employed by the company, is shown pouring gasoline from a jerry can into the pond; then another man throws in a lit torch. The flames quickly lick across the surface of the pond and shoot into the air.
Beets then appears on screen with arms outstretched, backed by the high flames.
“I told you guys, ‘come hell or high water,’ didn’t I?” he remarks to the camera crew.
“How do you like that!”
Crown prosecutor Megan Seiling presented three witnesses in the case this morning.
Robert Savard, the Yukon’s chief mining inspector, testified that his office received a complaint in March 2015 from Environment Canada enforcement officers in Yellowknife regarding the incident caught on film.
He said the territorial Department of Energy, Mines and Resources subsequently began an investigation which led to charges.
Tyson Bourgard, a mine inspector from Dawson who was assigned the mine, also testified.
He explained how water flowed from reservoir ponds, to settling ponds and eventually to the Indian River on the mining site.
As well, he explained that the water licence prohibited gasoline from being deposited in the water and that licencees are required to report spills and follow spill contingency plans.
But the Yukon spill line was never contacted about the incident.
On cross-examination, defence lawyer Andre Roothman questioned whether burning the fuel would minimize damage to the environment.
Bourgard responded, “I’m not able to answer that. I simply don’t have that information.
Roothman also noted that despite the incident taking place in the fall of 2014, a water sample was not taken from the site until June 2015 – and was never tested for hydrocarbons.
When asked why, Bourgard responded, “It’s not something that we typically do.”
But on re-direct, he noted that water samples cannot be taken from frozen water and are not a requirement for charging someone with a breach of his or her licence.
Finally, Favron, a Dawson resident whose family has been involved in the mining industry for 25 years, testified about his involvement in the incident.
“We were basically off the clock and a lot of stuff was going on,” he explained.
“At one point, I saw a gas can that had some gas in it and I decided that for fun I would pour some gas on the pond and it would be lit on fire.”
He also testified that he asked Beets if it would be OK for him to do so.
“He told me he didn’t give a f---,” Favron stated.
He said he poured half of the approximately two gallons of gas in the container and a man identified as Brian threw in a lit torch.
He added that he was not aware he was being filmed at the time, and once he saw the cameras, tried to get out of frame.
“At the time, I did not believe it was being filmed,” he said.
“I had no intention of being caught on film.”
Favron was also charged in the incident for which he pleaded guilty and paid a fine of approximately $1,700.
“I felt there was enough evidence stacked against me and it was obvious that I did it,” he said of his guilty plea.
Seiling was to present an expert witness on hydrocarbons this afternoon.
Roothman said in court that he expects the case, which was scheduled for three days, will conclude tomorrow afternoon. He added he doubts the defence will call any evidence or witnesses.
The reality series began airing on the Discovery Channel in 2010 and is now in its seventh season.
Beets, who moved to Canada from the Netherlands in the 1980s, first appeared on the series in season two.