Yukon looks to spend $17M to upgrade ore dock in Skagway, Alaska

The ore dock in Skagway, Alaska. (Michel Proulx/CBC - image credit)
The ore dock in Skagway, Alaska. (Michel Proulx/CBC - image credit)

The municipality of Skagway, Alaska, has accepted the terms of an agreement that would see the Yukon Government put more than $17 million toward upgrading one of the town's docks, in exchange for preferential access.

The agreement over the dock upgrades, which has yet to be finalized, comes as Skagway prepares take back control of the facility at the end of March from the White Pass and Yukon Route railway — the company that leased it for more than five decades.

The town now wants to upgrade the dock's infrastructure, and the Yukon Government says it's willing to help make that happen. The dock is used to ship ore from Yukon mines. 

"This is huge for the Yukon," Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata told CBC News, adding that the agreement came after months of negotiations.

"It's a big deal for us as well. It solidifies Skagway's position as the gateway to the Klondike ... I'm optimistic that this is going to be a very positive relationship for a long time to come."

Skagway announced last year it would seek to improve the dock to welcome bigger cruise ships. Cremata had said at the time the new designs wouldn't include elements, such as a rotator, that could be necessary for mining companies to ship ore.

But Michael Prochazka, assistant deputy minister with the Yukon's department of economic development, says the dock is a vital link to get Yukon-mined ore to market and needs to remain that way.

According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the value of minerals shipped from the Yukon in 2021 reached almost $743,000.

"Yukon's participation in the port redevelopment project is of a whole level of importance because it means securing that ... water access and helping to contribute to that infrastructure," Prochazka said.

Michael Prochazka
Michael Prochazka

Under the agreement, Yukon mining companies would benefit from a 35-year promise of preferential access to the port, Prochazka said. The improved multi-use dock would include a certain amount of acreage designated to handle containers for the export of critical minerals.

Prochazka says that would provide several benefits for the Yukon.

Potential investors in Yukon mining "want to know that there are strong, reliable, long term transportation links, and a port is a major part of that," he said.

"We're presented with a generational opportunity to really gain a foothold in tidewater for Yukon, and that is a tremendous opportunity for critical minerals," Prochazka said.

"It's a rare opportunity to be able to have that security in a port in another country. And we're definitely excited about the possibility of getting that done."

The Yukon Government says it hopes to conclude the deal in the coming months.