Long view is needed to wisely manage mining

Ross Burnet I enjoyed Kyle Carruthers's Sept. 3 column concerning tough questions about federal transfers. He makes an interesting point about the perceptions the rest of Canada might hold about a territory that receives substantial per capita transfer p

COMMENTARY

by Ross Burnet

I enjoyed Kyle Carruthers’s Sept. 3 column concerning tough questions about federal transfers. He makes an interesting point about the perceptions the rest of Canada might hold about a territory that receives substantial per capita transfer payments but also a region that transmits active opinions that oppose development.

He surmises that these realities might play into one another. He suggests that a strong and lasting preservation ethic might decrease transfer payments because, he ponders, “what’s in it for the rest of Canada?” I think he means apart from a strong and lasting preservation ethic, which is also of value to Canadians.

The tide is certainly turning towards environmental protection and preservation. Long forgotten and buried notions are re-dawning on people that natural resources ‘do’ much more than provide materials and jobs. Materials and jobs are important for the way our society functions but the natural world serves much more than that. Severe environmental changes like those caused by climate change are regularly described in terms of what just happened and not so much about what was decided months ago to set things up.

I’m not suggesting that this causes that, but I am suggesting that everything causes everything. The natural world is not just a store of materials; it’s a self-nourishing system that reaches much further than we have yet imagined let alone comprehended. With a number of decades of more or less ignoring this relationship, humans have had a significant negative impact on the natural world. We’ve had a few jobs along the way and also gotten a few materials too, which has led to some remarkable advances, without a doubt. Good for us. But not just good.

Carruthers recognizes that an exorbitant amount of resource development and, he admits, environmental degradation would have to occur in order for Yukon to pay its own way. The transfer payments are large and the Yukon can’t support itself fully. Let’s just take these two abstractions out of the debate for a moment because we are likely going to continue to have some transfer payments and some development.

The issue has been paralyzed by the question: how much? That’s the wrong debate. It’s not how much, but how? It’s methods that matter.

It’s great to find and make use of ore and a host of other resources, but across the nation, the resulting degradation, catastrophic accidents and side-effects have not been avoided or mitigated in the way that proponents often suggest and many environmental review processes seem to allow.

We will certainly produce some effects to get our widgets, but we tend to not think about how far those effects travel, their ultimate severity, or their cumulative impacts until there is a catastrophe. We’ve tended to elevate the value of the short-term financial benefits, at the expense of direct health and welfare.

The resource sector is intelligent and informed. I think it should kindly drop the PR campaigns and the boundary pushing conferences and concentrate on the wisest places, the wisest methods, the wisest research and innovation to constantly improve how it explores, develops, refines, and transports natural resources.

Embrace the regulation that is necessary to protect the public good and convince the public of the value of the industry not with bumper stickers, but with smarts everyone can appreciate. Do this and watch stocks soar. Perhaps there would not be quite so many “don’t develop” messages if the means of developing were not so invasive and devastating to water, species, and habitats.

The Yukon will probably see more development. By all means, let’s create jobs. But let’s also make it a world-leading operation with a philosophy for the times that is meaningful to Canadians. That’s what’s in it for all. And widgets too. Market forces can still compete for profits, but also for integrity of methods that preserve values of health throughout.

Ross Burnet lives in Whitehorse

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read