Use of the Beaver River watershed has been a live issue in recent years. The territorial government denied approval for a road accessing a gold deposit, and a lawsuit is still before the courts over mining exploration between the local First Nation, the Yukon government and a Vancouver-based mineral exploration firm.
Greater clarity on use of the area and possible resolution of these issues may be on the horizon, as the government says they will have a land use plan for the watershed north of Keno City drafted this year.
The land use planning process for the watershed has been underway since an agreement was inked between the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun (FNNND) and the Yukon government in 2018. The planning process was started following a proposed mining exploration road into the area.
The road, proposed by ATAC Resources, was planned to access the company’s tiger gold deposit near the centre of the 5,048-square-kilometre planning area. The Yukon government didn’t approve the 65-kilometre all-season road in late 2020, citing FNNND’s concerns about its impacts on the undeveloped area.
Mineral claim staking and the land use planning in the Beaver River watershed is also the subject of a lawsuit launched by Na-Cho Nyäk Dun in 2021 against the Yukon government and Metallic Metals Corporation. FNNND is petitioning the Yukon Supreme Court to review the government’s decision to allow Metallic Minerals to conduct exploration activities in the watershed for 10 years. The fact that this approval was granted prior to the completion of the land use plan is a part of FNNND’s argument against it.
Both the road and exploration projects were recommended for approval by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB).
Krysti Horton, manager of regional land use planning, is among the government representatives working on the land use plan for the Beaver River area. She said three rounds of consultation with stakeholders have gone into informing the plan. Horton said the planning has weighed the various values of the area that came out in consultation. Along with the mining industry interests in the area, Horton said the planning committee has heard about its importance to guide outfitters and trappers, its fish and wildlife habitat and its value for First Nations culture and traditional use.
The plan will create management recommendations for human use of the area; Horton said the details are still being worked out but a draft plan will be shared with the public to get their input. Horton said work is still ongoing trying to reach a consensus and get a plan out to interested parties in 2023.
The pace of land use planning for the Beaver River area drew recent criticism from the opposition Yukon Party. They listed it among the unresolved mining issues they say Premier Ranj Pillai should work on during the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C. Roundup, a mining conference that was held Jan. 23 to 26 in Vancouver.
“In 2018, when he was the minister, Ranj Pillai declared the Beaver River Land Use Plan was a ‘new way of doing business’ and would be completed in two years,” a Jan. 19 statement from the Yukon Party Caucus reads.
“Five years later the plan is nowhere near complete and the proponent of a tote road in the area publicly questioned if the Yukon was indeed open for business.”
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org