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Dixon goes to China

Yukon's minister of environment and economic development wants to sell Asian investors on Yukon resources. Currie Dixon is leaving on Sunday for a two-week trip to pitch the Yukon to foreign investors.

Yukon’s minister of environment and economic development wants to sell Asian investors on Yukon resources.

Currie Dixon is leaving on Sunday for a two-week trip to pitch the Yukon to foreign investors. While he won’t have time to drop by the Yukon’s sister province in Shaanxi, China, he will be visiting Beijing, Hong Kong and Tokyo to meet with government representatives and business leaders.

“In order for projects to go forward in the Yukon, we need investment from outside of our borders, and trips like this to emerging economies like those in Asia only seek to attract that investment and bring it to the territory,” Dixon said.

But convincing investors to drop their money here could be a difficult sell. As Golden Predator CEO Bill Sheriff pointed out this week, investors want certainty, and that’s something that he says is in short supply in the Yukon.

A recent Appeals Court ruling found the territory’s mineral claims regime sometimes runs afoul of First Nation rights. This is the latest in a series of issues that undermine investor confidence in the Yukon, Sheriff said.

“This court decision is just going to kill exploration financing in the Yukon. Investors hate uncertainty and there was already plenty of uncertainty in the Yukon before this,” Sheriff said.

Other concerns include a looming court battle between three northern First Nations and the Yukon government over its handling of the Peel watershed land-use planning process. And the Kaska First Nations have threatened to block the North Canol Road in response to the territorial government’s move to strip unsigned First Nations of their power to veto oil and gas development.

There is also increasing national tension in the wake of the Idle No More movement, which is demanding that the federal and provincial governments respect treaty obligations and consult honestly with indigenous communities.

In December Mike Smith, the Assembly of First Nations’ Yukon regional chief, told the News that the federal government’s recent controversial Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China could be used by some First Nations to put pressure on the government by blocking development on their lands.

“It’s Machiavellian here. What you do is you use (the FIPA deal) against the government. We can create so much hell for Chinese companies, (the Canadian government) is going to end up paying millions and billions,” Smith said.

But Dixon was optimistic that he can paint a tempting picture of the Yukon as open for business.

“A reality of doing business in Yukon is that you need to get what we refer to as a social licence ... you need to involve the First Nation in those developments. I think First Nations are keen to see economic development, but they want to be involved in how it goes forward. That’s a reasonable process; we’ve got experience with that. I see nothing but opportunity there with First Nations rather than a challenge,” he said.

The Yukon government has been courting Asian investment on trips like this since 2005.

Dixon said he’s hoping the trip will help to secure investments like the one that got the Wolverine mine up and running in 2008.

When the global economy tanked in 2008, two Chinese-owned firms snapped up the Wolverine project from Yukon Zinc, taking it private and eventually putting the mine into production. If that hadn’t happened, Yukon Zinc might have been forced to close up shop.

“The investment and development of that mine wouldn’t have happened with the work of my predecessors and the department in establishing relationships and courting that investment,” Dixon said.

To cap off his trip, Dixon will be making a presentation at the Precious Metals Summit in Hong Kong on Jan 24.

“It’s a very renowned summit. It’s a good opportunity to showcase what Yukon has to offer,” Dixon said.

Contact Jesse Winter at