How many people are aware that, in the past year or so, almost the entire remainder of the Yukon territory has been staked for mineral claims?
This does not mean mining companies own all the land in the Yukon. However, it does mean mining companies and individuals own the subsurface rights Ã that is, the rock underneath all that land, including much of Whitehorse.
This might seem unbelievable given the Yukon is a large territory Ã bigger than Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia combined. That is a lot of land.
One might be thinking, “Who can afford to pay to stake all of these claims, given each claim costs $100 per year to maintain?” The Yukon Geological Survey has all the information on which large companies have the most Yukon claims right now.
Also clear is the fact Yukon taxpayers have paid for a portion of the costs of this increased Yukon exploration activity.
How? One example is the Yukon Mineral Incentive Program, which subsidizes work related to mineral exploration and mining.
This subsidized exploration is occurring when the Yukon already has very small royalties coming from each tonne of ore produced.
This also means Yukon taxpayers are potentially paying companies and individuals to travel to the Yukon, stake claims and potentially develop mines. In fact, Yukoners have been paying companies and people to do this since the incentive program came into force, but it is not clear when that was.
We know the current government is more than pro-mining. Since 2003, the government has gone great lengths to promote many forms of development in the Yukon, including oil and gas, rail and mining. The mineral incentive program is just one way it has done so. And the Yukon government is working in concert with Ottawa to provide incentives to develop the North.
The problem is this: we all know that early in the Peel Watershed planning process, the Yukon government denied the Peel planning commission’s request for a moratorium on staking the region. The moratorium would have prevented new claims in the watershed while the planning process was underway.
Instead, mining companies continued to stake claims in the Peel until about two years ago when the government finally decided to put a moratorium on staking. During that time, thousands of claims were staked and now there is talk about compensation for those claims if the plan should be approved. Given that most of the Peel Watershed will be protected from development, exploration and mining, companies will have lost the value of their claims and the work they have done so far.
But, the problem is that some companies and people were already getting money through mineral incentive program, plus any other incentive programs from the federal and territorial governments.
Now, those same companies also want compensation for the claims they have staked?
With the entire Yukon having mineral claims already staked as of this year, it will be potentially impossible in future regional land-use planning for a moratorium on staking to have any effect. Unless some of those claims lapse from having no work done on them each year, or unless companies neglect to pay a fee every year to keep the claims in force, all of the claims in the Yukon will continue to be valid for a long time, and the question of compensation will come up at every turn in the foreseeable future.
Thus, the supposedly democratic process of regional land-use planning, which stems from the Umbrella Final Agreement, has been put a lot further from Yukoner’s grasp.
Worse, the Yukon Geological Survey chief geologist Mike Burke recently moved to private industry. He is now working as the chief geologist for Golden Predator, a company that includes former Yukon premier Piers Macdonald on its board of directors.
This means we are seeing close ties between government and industry. And any new government is going to have to be twice as vigilant to ensure land-use planning isn’t filled with people developing existing claims instead of putting a moratorium on new ones Ã another problem created by the current government.
On a different note, Darrell Pasloski knows he is in hot water.
It is no wonder the old Yukon Party members left in such a hurry this time around. Pasloski knows he has probably secured his core voters by now and isn’t going to get too many more with his public speaking skills or his government’s poor track record.
I think he is trying to use vote splitting to win this election.
His good friend Harper can do it, and it worked for Leef, why not him?
I think that is one of his primary motivations for trying to get all the parties involved in the CBC debate. He wants non-Yukon Party voters to split their vote so his crew has a better chance of getting in.
Lewis Rifkind already wrote an article about the dangers of vote splitting in this election, and if the parties cannot figure out a way to address vote splitting in this election, and if we are not careful, the Yukon Party is going to get another five years of cooking up schemes like the ones I just described above.
We need to be smarter, or we’ll see five more years of this mismanagement.