Open letter to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board:
The Mactung mine is planned in the Selwyn Mountains, at the end of the North Canol Road. You describe the area as displaying “the highest diversity of mammals in the Taiga Cordillera of the Yukon,” including several federally recognized species at risk.
The barrens that start a few kilometres from the proposed mine have been identified by the United Nations as a place of unique and outstanding natural heritage.
You admit that there are no baseline studies about wildlife. There is no indication about the seasonal distribution or density of any species.
There are concerns that the current harvest level of mountain caribou may be unsustainable.” The grizzly bear population in the vicinity of the project has a “mortality rate just under threshold of sustainability.”
Caribou and bear will be displaced respectively from their identified calving and post calving areas and denning areas. Caribou’s spring and fall migration will be restricted.
Opening of the North Canol for 12 months rather than three, as a direct consequence of the project, will result in additional hunting. It will also make exploration activities much easier and cheaper and generate more industrial development, further impacting nearby wildlife.
Despite all these findings, you dismiss the whole issue of cumulative effects in one sentence. You consider that all these damaging effects can be mitigated by “increased monitoring and development of adaptive management plans” that will be undertaken by North American Tungsten (NTC).
Do you seriously consider that a mining company, whose sole reason to be in this area is to generate profit, has the integrity and the capacity to conduct thorough wildlife studies? Not to mention that NTC has no regulatory power to implement any management plans on Crown land!
If YESAB wants to live up to its duties, it should have the courage to say that NTC has no means to mitigate the harmful effects of the Mactung mine.
YESAB encourages the Yukon government, in general terms, to address some of these issues but at the present time, there is no land planning on its way. There are no wildlife studies scheduled. No commitment was made to preventively reduce hunting and the effects of increased exploration and mining activities are not even acknowledged.
If the Yukon government wants high value areas like the Selwyn Mountains to be opened to industrial development, these are the steps that need to take place beforehand. If the government fails to do so, YESAB must recommend that this project be not allowed to proceed.
YESAB shockingly favors the financial interests of one private company, disregarding the public interest, especially the interest of the three most affected First Nations to preserve the integrity of this fragile and uniquely rich environment not only for subsistence reasons but also for its spiritual importance.
Allowing Mactung mine to proceed under the current conditions makes a mockery of the very concept of an environmental assessment, it propagates a shameful disregard towards First Nation’s aspiration and it will cause an irreparable damage to Yukon’s natural heritage.