Carmacks Copper opponent wins stewardship award

While his name isn't actually David, the Yukon Conservation Society is recognizing Robert Moar for taking on and defeating a real "Goliath.

While his name isn’t actually David, the Yukon Conservation Society is recognizing Robert Moar for taking on and defeating a real “Goliath.”

“With this Carmacks-Copper-proposed mine, we feel, that the company had a lot of financial and legal resources,” said Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the society.

“The First Nation stood up to this company, and really, also to the Yukon government, which seemed quite eager to see the project go ahead. And, against very stiff odds, achieved success in protecting the Yukon River and salmon habitat.”

Moar was essentially the guy who did most of the work, Baltgailis said.

As the director of lands, resources and infrastructure for the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, Moar did the research, found the experts and gave advice on how the First Nation should plead its case during the seven-day Yukon Water Board hearing for the Western Copper Corporation’s water licence.

The proposed mine, 38 kilometres northwest of Carmacks, wanted to use heap leach technology. Sulphuric acid is poured on top of the ore pile to bring out the copper.

There is a predicted reserve of about 10.6 million tonnes of copper there, but the heap leach technique has never been proven safe in a climate like the Yukon’s, said Baltgailis.

For seven years in the 1990s, Moar worked in mining exploration in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Northern Saskatchewan.

“His own knowledge of mining was also very crucial to realizing this project was one that really, the environmental impacts could not be mitigated,” said Baltgailis.

The water board agreed and denied the company a water licence.

The company appealed the decision in Yukon Supreme Court, making the case that the water board overstepped its jurisdiction by denying a water licence after the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board and the territorial government had already approved the project.

The court upheld the water board’s decision, clarifying its independent role in the environmental assessment and regulatory regime in the territory.

The company initially appealed the court’s decision, but earlier this month announced it had changed its mind.

But Moar had already won the award, said Baltgailis.

“We didn’t know that they were going to drop the appeal at the time he was chosen,” she said. “But he had already been successful in getting the water board to say no to the project, so we felt fairly confident that this project was not going to go ahead. But it was actually an amazing coincidence that the same week that we were preparing a media release about Robert winning, that we got this very good news.”

Moar may not know he’s won the 2011 Gerry Couture Stewardship Award. He is currently traveling on holiday and is not expected back until February, said Baltgailis.

But before he left, Moar was told he had been nominated for the medal, which includes a prize of $1,000. He has since been notified by email that he won.

Not only was Moar’s work on this case successful in stopping a mine, which he argued could have horrific effects on salmon-bearing waters, but he was also able to get the ball rolling on legal clarification and strength of the territory’s assessment and regulatory regime.

“It is setting a precedence,” said Baltgailis.

Moar now holds a seat on the Yukon Water Board.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at