Respect the Peel planning process

Open letter to Mark Ayranto, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, I am writing in response to the Yukon Chamber of Mines ad in last Friday's Yukon News: "Before it's yours, it's mined." The ad is intended to inspir

Open letter to Mark Ayranto, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

I am writing in response to the Yukon Chamber of Mines ad in last Friday’s Yukon News: “Before it’s yours, it’s mined.”

The ad is intended to inspire respect for the mining industry in the Yukon by pointing out the metals in our lives. 

However, the best way to inspire respect is by showing respect.

Please see Michael Dougherty’s column “Just Society” in the same newspaper. He points out the preferential treatment the mining industry receives locally, nationally and internationally, at the expense of so many other values in the land.

What irks me about extraction of non-renewable resources is when it occurs with systemic discrimination against the other values, which are very dear to people: health, culture, ecology, spirituality, sustainable economic activities.

What the public asks, being the ones who create the demand for metals, is that our other values are not part of the price paid for those metals.

And I have only to look at your own company, Victoria Gold Corp., to see an example of that. You have entered a benefit-sharing agreement with the Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nation in relation to gold properties on their traditional territory. I understand you will not pursue any exploration or development in the Peel watershed out of respect for the First Nation’s desires.

I admire and applaud this respect and responsibility. Are there other members of the Yukon Chamber of Mines who share this 21st-century thinking?

It is no secret that the government of the Yukon rejected the proposed Peel Watershed Land Use Plan because it does not meet the demands of the mining sector.

Yet you have demonstrated yourself that honouring other values in the land is the foundation of good business. If the Yukon ends up being a place where industry is guaranteed friction because government invites it to practise at odds with Yukon residents, won’t Yukon lose the prominent position it just gained as a good place to do business in the resource sector? Business practices which function at the expense of democracy are never on a solid foundation.

As our youth voice loud and clear how they want democracy and a healthy land to host us, let’s set the example of maturity and see at least as far as they do. As government and industry support training for our youth for potential future employment in mining, let’s make sure the industry is on a sound foundation for the future, not based in the past.

A former president of the Nunavut Chamber of Mines expressed to me the value of sound land use planning, and the formula for conflict if it is compromised. Will I hear the same at home in the Yukon? 

Let’s show the world that the Yukon is in the 21st century and we do things right. The land use plan arrived at by the Peel Land Use Planning Commission is a stellar example of that. Throw away the plan, and we throw away a priceless opportunity to move beyond a history of resentment, liability and ill will.

Support the Peel Watershed Land Use Plan arrived at by the Peel Planning Commission.

If the Yukon mining industry wants respect, it simply has to show respect.

Marten Berkman

Whitehorse