Last week the premier and Grand Chief Ruth Massie concluded an agreement to impose staged permitting for basic prospecting activities (Class 1 mining) throughout the Yukon.
As of December 2013 in the Ross River area and effective July 1 in all other areas with unsettled land claims, and next year throughout the Yukon, prospectors will require permits to drive on bush roads, dig a hole, cut a trail, set up a camp or use a jerrycan of gas.
If you want to drive on an unmaintained public road, you now need a prior permission from every claim holder through which the road passes before Energy, Mines and Resources will accept your application.
Want to run a chainsaw or generator? You need to provide a “fuel spill contingency plan” before your permit will be accepted and the review process begins. The timeline? Minimum 25 days – but no maximum. Change your plans and want to do something else? Reapply and repeat.
This isn’t proposed; it’s already imposed – and with no fanfare.
Throughout this sordid affair, the Yukon government has been both gutless and clueless. They signed “secret” letters with First Nations in 2004 committing to some form of “notification” but never informed anyone in industry.
They sent sheep to do wolves work in the Ross River court case and lost. Having lost, they failed to even appeal the ruling by the judge that activities with no environmental impacts affected aboriginal rights.
Having been denied appeal by the Supreme Court, they then met with the Yukon Prospectors Association and told us they were going to comply with the court decision by “adopting” our proposed recommendations to lower the thresholds and let activities with no environmental impact proceed without permitting.
It was no surprise to find out this May that they had not even bothered to discuss their “adopted” recommendations with First Nations. The Yukon government’s final answer: All activities, regardless of impacts, need a permit.
Prospectors and exploration workers have been thrown under the bus in the interests of political peace and bureaucratic happiness.
All Yukoners should be aware of what has happened here. By agreeing to this, the Yukon government has in effect admitted that camping, driving on roads, using fuel in containers, cutting a line or digging a hole constitute activities which could impact aboriginal rights anywhere in the Yukon – and that prior notification and meaningful consultation is required before these can proceed.
There is now a complete mismatch between land use thresholds in the Territorial Lands Act and those in the mining acts – sitting out there like a legal hand grenade with a loose pin. We are one court case away from requiring all casual users of public land to get a permit.
Hunters, fishermen, campers, outfitters, trappers and wood cutters should take note.