It is beyond perplexing why the Yukon Party government would actively underwrite claims in the Peel Watershed that otherwise would have expired this year.
We await a cogent explanation of the policy from Mines Minister Patrick Rouble.
Essentially, during a banner year in Yukon mineral exploration, Rouble approved a $211,800 subsidy to miners by forgiving work on 2,118 claims in the Peel Watershed.
By issuing the so-called relief orders in March, the government preserved the claims for a year. Now they won’t expire until February 2012, at the earliest.
The odd decision has far-reaching implications for the Peel Watershed and the Yukon government.
Had the 2,118 claims, or even a portion of them, expired, claimholders would not have had any right to demand compensation if a Peel Watershed plan was approved.
Now, not only has the public lost revenue on these stale claims, but it may be asked to compensate claimholders in the future.
Is this justifiable public policy? We await an answer.
As well, the hotly contested Peel Watershed, which is under a staking moratorium, will now retain 8,431 claims.
And many of the claims Rouble swooped in to save are controversial uranium claims held by Cash Minerals Ltd.
Had the government not offered this subsidy, it’s quite likely many of the claims would have lapsed. That would have gone a little way to strengthening the protection demanded by First Nations and a majority of Yukon citizens, who favour protection for the Peel.
Instead, development pressure is as strong as ever.
The justification for the corporate handout is being fobbed off on low-level civil servants.
“It gives them a break,” Bryony McIntyre, a government planner, said of the relief orders.
The government wants to maintain the “status quo” until the fate of the Peel Watershed is decided, she added.
But none of her answers explained why, beyond, “We don’t want to see the landscape change.”
That’s a curious turn of phrase. In fact, it is exactly the one conservationists might use.
Except, this time, it is being offered by Mines Department officials, who are also driving the Peel Watershed review.
And it refers to protecting mining interests, not the environment.
That, alone, suggests the department has an agenda and a bias against conservation.
So, the public deserves a solid explanation why the government has taken this action.
And that explanation should come from Rouble, not his employee.