I recently had the doubtful pleasure of reading several strongly anti-mining articles in the April 3rd edition of the Yukon News.
This time, as president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, I feel I must take exception, on behalf of our industry – a significant contributor to Canada’s economy and provider of employment for many Yukoners – to some of the erroneous, biased and misleading statements therein.
I’ll start with the article Government Digs a Pit in the Peel, wherein the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is berated for its pro-mining stance.
The 11-page Energy, Mines and Resources “opus” is not a dissertation on the positive values of mining, nor is it anti-environment.
In fact, Energy, Mines and Resources is obligated, as a responsible authority, to provide comments and direction to the planning commission; its submission is a critique of the scenario options report itself.
The Mines report describes numerous issues related to the interpretation of Chapter 11 of the Umbrella Final Agreement, therefore indicating the basis of the scenarios report may be flawed.
Specifically, the Mines report states that, according to the Umbrella Final Agreement: “the plan must reflect not only the rights in favour of Yukon Indian People, but the rights provided to other Yukoners (access, for example).”
This includes access for exploration and potential mines; many of the people requiring protection of access rights involved are Yukoners, including First Nation people.
The statement that pertains to the coexistence of “mineral exploration and motorized tourism with wilderness tourism” is, of course, true.
These activities have been coexisting for several decades; the “pristine wilderness” is also an area that has undergone considerable mineral exploration and development, with $48 million in mineral exploration, largely in the Bonnet Plume Watershed, incurred from 2000 through early 2008 alone.
That this continues to be considered one of the “world’s last great wilderness areas” speaks incredibly well for Yukon’s mining industry.
Despite $48 million in exploration, the wilderness value remains intact.
This edition of the Yukon News includes an article by Brian Brett, entitled We Pluck Before We Think.
It has been a while since I’ve read something so misleading and inaccurate.
The most blatantly outrageous is the statement: “Their (the miners’) desperation to open up this paradise for resource extraction and pollution…”
We don’t want to open it up; it’s open now and always has been. It’s Crown land!
Scenario 2 would like to alienate it from mineral exploration, removing existing rights from Yukoners and companies that have spent tens of millions of their hard-earned dollars in the area. This would probably trigger massive compensation payments, funded by the Yukon/Canadian taxpayer, creating a double negative – removing jobs and investment from Yukoners and having Yukoners pay for the privilege of taking those rights away.
As for projects as “nutty as an iron mine on the fringe of the Arctic Circle,” there may come a time when the project is viable. If and when that time comes there will be a series of feasibility studies at great expense to determine viability.
There will also be a thorough, open and public environmental screening of this, as well as any other significant project proposals.
But my favourite is the statement that “there are those walking among us who demand to wreck it all,” implying that miners and explorationists are some manner of foul, shapeshifting aliens that have infiltrated the human race, which has long since recognized mining’s evil intentions.
Seriously though, miners don’t demand to “wreck it all;” what we require is access to land for responsible exploration.
A great deal of hard work goes into development of a mine, which occurs successfully perhaps once per 1,000 projects.
Many mining and exploration personnel are members of professional associations and are bound by high ethical standards of reporting and conduct, including responsibility to the environment.
But more than that, explorationists spend a great deal of time living and working in the wilderness and, therefore, respect and treasure the natural beauty as much, or more, than anyone.
There are few people on Earth that are as familiar with the northern wilderness as explorationists.
Mining has had more than its share of negative legacy, including some unfortunate recent examples such as Faro.
But this industry as well as government have made great strides towards minimizing mining’s environmental footprint. Modern reclamation and bonding requirements, supported by the Yukon Chamber of Mines, are in place to prevent further abandoned minesites.
To constantly berate this industry is to ignore not just the obvious direct necessity for metals and industrial materialism, but also the somewhat more subtle benefits to Yukon’s economy and tax base it produces.
Mining generates tremendous economic benefits to the territory in employment, taxes, payroll, services and contracts – and is necessary since everything we use in the modern world is either mined or harvested.
Metal extraction is and will increasingly be necessary for alternative energy generation and transmission, as the effects of climate change become more pronounced, as well as for pollution-control devices, such as catalytic converters.
Simply put, if it cannot be harvested it has to be mined.
Yukon has tremendous potential that can benefit all Yukoners positively, while coexisting with other land uses and ensuring the protection of the environment.
And it keeps my family fed. And many others in the Yukon fed, housed and clothed also.
Carl Schulze, Yukon Chamber