Unfair emissions exemptions for mining – An open letter to federal MP, Yukon Ministers of Finance, EMR and Environment
We are in a climate emergency and the Yukon government is unfairly, and irresponsibly, treating one industry, mining, differently. Mining should be part of the solution, and government should ensure it is.
In 2019, the federal government put a price on carbon pollution for every jurisdiction in Canada, and the Yukon declared a climate emergency. In 2020, the Yukon government issued Our Clean Future, its climate plan with targets and timelines for reductions in GHG emissions from transportation, heating, electricity generation, waste and other commercial areas.
Except for mining, which Yukon treats differently.
In an emergency, the point is everyone – individuals, businesses, governments – pulls together to share the work of reducing fossil fuel use, so overall emissions go down. Canada provided provinces and territories the option to design a pricing system tailored to local needs, and to adopt the federal pricing system.
The reason to have a national program with national standards is to ensure that all emitters contribute their fair share. But in the Yukon they don’t. Because one entire class of large emitters is exempted. Mining.
Consider the federal fuel surcharge for placer mining. The first few years after a price was put on carbon pollution, YG was giving each producing placer miner a 100 per cent rebate, a complete exemption. In 2022 the federal government demanded YG either adjust its approach or adopt the federal one. In 2023 YG will still rebate 100 per cent of carbon taxes paid, but now the rebate will be shared evenly among producing placer miners rather than returned directly to individual producers. This change will at least incentivize individual operators to use less fuel.
For the setting of targets for emissions reductions as announced in its 2020 Our Clean Future plan, YG committed to “work with industry to set a target for greenhouse gas emissions from placer and quartz mining by the end of 2022”. YG missed its own deadline. A 2023 ‘what we heard’ report reflects that work with industry is ongoing, but no timeline for completion and implementation is indicated.
When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mining is getting special treatment, a ‘sweetheart deal’, in the Yukon.
Emissions from mining in 2017 are often cited as around 10 per cent of Yukon’s total emissions, which doesn’t sound like much. But 2017 is hardly representative of this boom-and-bust sector’s carbon footprint, especially when we look to the future.
Some of the largest mining corporations in the world are advancing plans for massive mines in the territory: BMS minerals’ Kudz Ze Kayah, Newmont’s Coffee Gold, and Western Copper and Gold’s Casino, which would all be off-grid mines. Proponents have referenced using diesel and or fracked gas (LNG) to power these operations, meaning enormous carbon emissions.
To our federal MP, to the Yukon’s ministers of Finance, EMR and the Environment, to the Leaders of the Yukon Party and NDP:
When will Yukon implement a just and transparent system so that producing placer and quartz mining operations pay their fair share for their carbon pollution and climate impacts?
When will mining have enforceable carbon emissions reduction targets?
As dire implications of the climate emergency manifest all around the world, will you direct a more responsible approach in the mining sector, specifically will you implement a hard cap on emissions from industries rather than ill defined soft targets?
Please, respond like we are in an emergency. We will also follow up with your offices.
Council of Canadians