I like to thank the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission for their objective vision for the future and the in-depth work during the last few years.
The members of the commission have done a great amount of research and consultations of various user groups to complete this difficult project.
The committee has asked the Yukon government repeatedly since 2006 for a moratorium on staking new mineral claims until a final decision is made.
Many Yukon citizens have no idea of the extent of staking that has already taken place.
Exploration companies can stake as many claims as they like and that they are not required to set claim posts that are four feet tall anymore. Modern staking practices require as little as four- by four-inch claim posts and the staking of the future may conveniently happen on the internet.
Another widely unknown fact is that once the mineral claim is staked, the exploration efforts are in no way limited to one mineral.
If the company is looking for gold or copper and they discover a huge uranium deposit, the uranium may prove to be more profitable.
And if the First Nations and the public are opposed to uranium mining they might not have any options.
But the companies could ask the government for a huge compensation package depending on uranium prices.
Who would have to pay for this? The First Nations, the taxpayers or Santa Claus?
Especially the Wind River area has, according to the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Committee, the “highest concentration of quartz claims, some iron potential, mostly moderate with some high copper/gold/uranium potential.”
Two thirds of the existing claims in the Wernecke Mountains were staked with uranium as primary commodity.
How can this happen without previous consultations?
Uranium tailings are radioactive for many thousands of years and cannot be contained safely for such a long time.
Any radioactive waste would be detrimental for all plants and animals downstream from the extraction site.
Water should be the primary concern in the Peel Watershed.
The ecosystems in this particular area are so sensitive that even slight changes of available water and water quality have a great impact on the flora and fauna.
My son and I hiked in the mountainous part of the Wind River last summer when it was extremely hot.
We could see that water was sparse even without human interference.
Any type of mining or exploration activity including camps etc., requires water.
I haven’t found any information about ground water levels or aquifers in the area. Do we want to pollute and deplete the remaining water and be responsible for devastating impact on the ecosystems down the road?
Under these circumstances it makes no sense at to allow further staking of mineral claims in the Wernecke Mountains.
Before a final decision is made it is unethical to continue staking land away under our feet in an area like the Peel Watershed.
First Nations, the public and even the companies are disregarded.
Unless negotiations behind closed doors have taken place promising companies future road access, continuation of staking activities could cause financial losses and discontentment for exploration companies.