The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is calling on governments to speed up the permitting process for mining projects in the territory.
Last week Capstone Mining Corp. cut production in half at the Minto mine and laid off 44 workers because it does not yet have permits in place to begin the next phase of operations.
“The mining and exploration sectors have experienced a significant downturn over the past two years,” said Philip Fitzgerald, the chamber’s chair, in a news release. “This downturn already has significantly impacted our business community so we expect this additional layoff will further result in hardships to families and a decrease in economic activity. We therefore urge Canada, Yukon and First Nations governments to work together on improving regulatory and permitting processes in Yukon.”
In an interview this week, Fitzgerald said the statement was not intended as a criticism of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.
“I think the environmental regulations and institutions in the territory are great. We’re being really careful not to criticize the actual institution or the process, we’re just talking about efficiencies in getting everything underway. We’d be the last entity in the world to try and tell the environmental regulatory agencies how to do their job.”
But if there’s anything that can be done to make the process more efficient, it should be done, he said.
“All we’re basically saying is just calling upon everybody to just get this resolved one way or the other and provide the 44 workers and their families with some certainty going forward.”
Capstone applied its proposal for the next phase of work to YESAB in July 2013. It expects to receive permits by August.
“We applied as early as we could,” said Ron Light, the mine’s general manager, in an interview last week.
The proposal is moving “quite smoothly” through the assessment process, said Adam Wrench, the manager of YESAB’s Mayo office.
“We’re working quite closely with the proponent and key stakeholders and the public to try to conduct this evaluation in as timely a manner as possible.”
The amount of time that it is taking for the Minto expansion assessment is related to the scale of the proposal, said Wrench.
“It’s taking a little bit longer than some of the past assessments of Minto mine’s previous expansions. That’s directly related to the complexity of this proposal specifically, which is the largest expansion that we’ve seen from Minto mine so far, and includes some fairly complicated aspects.”
The board’s timelines for each stage of the assessment are mandated through legislation.
That provides a high level of certainty for companies involved in the process, he said.
The best thing that companies can do to ensure that the assessment process moves efficiently is to ensure that the proposal is as complete as possible and information requested by the board is produced as quickly as possible, he said.
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