“Mining sustains us,” it is as simple as that. It provides jobs for Yukoners. It provides a tax base for our government. It enables us to live the wonderful and adventurous lives that we are lucky to lead. That is a fact, and there is no doubt or debate about it.
In regards to the panic over the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board’s decisions on the proposed Casino mine project and Northern Cross’s drilling expansion in Eagle Plains, I believe there are a couple critical points that are needed to keep things in perspective.
1. With the recent criticism of YESAB, it must be noted that YESAB has approved over 99 per cent of mining developments. That is a staggering number for a territory ridden with expensive and toxic abandoned mines. Some folks consider YESAB a giant ball of unnecessary red tape and others consider YESAB a rubber-stamp organization that never says “no” out of fear of litigations for projects that don’t get a quick green light. (See the Eagle Plains drilling proposal.)
YESAB must walk a fine line and they will never make everyone happy. (Note: Conservationists were livid when YESAB approved the Cash Minerals Wind River road.)
However, anyone who has followed the Casino mine proposal knows that the YESAB decision was a no-brainer… way too much risk, with too little reward. The potential for another Faro mine (or much worse) is simply too high. If the folks at YESAB gave this project a quick green light, they would all lose their jobs for being incompetent.
2. It is clear to anyone who has followed the YESAB process regarding Northern Cross’s proposed drilling in Eagle Plains that the corporation has been dismissive. It has taken the approach that we should be honoured to have it drilling in the Yukon, and should bend over backwards to accommodate it.
Add to that the fact that the Porcupine caribou herd has sustained the people of the North for thousands of years. It is not worth risking the long-term health and survival of the herd for the possibility of ill-managed, short-term oil and gas development.
In closing, it’s normal to have questions and concerns about the economic and environmental impacts of oil, gas and mining projects. We all know that mining sustains us, oil sustains us, logging sustains us, tourism sustains us, caribou sustain us, salmon sustain us, clean water sustains us, and our environment sustains us.
We have to strike the right balance, and that will involve us saying “no” or “not now” to risky, short-term developments that may have devastating negative economic and environmental impacts, because that is responsible development.