Yukon environmentalists are worried Premier Dennis Fentie will downplay protection of the Peel watershed at an annual schmoozefest between mining companies and politicians in Vancouver this week.
A land-use commission has recommended protecting 80 per cent of the 68,000-square-kilometre watershed from mining – including areas coveted by industry.
But the 2010 Mineral Exploration Roundup, held this year at the Westin Bayshore, could be used as a platform for Fentie to assuage fears mining is unwelcome in the Peel, said Mike Dehn, executive director of
the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
“The roundup is traditionally the place where exploration companies and political figures get to discuss opportunities in the coming year,” said Dehn.
“And the Yukon government has gone there in the past saying they’re open for business.”
It’s not clear if Fentie’s talking points will be released, Emily Younker, a cabinet spokesperson, said Friday.
It also isn’t clear whether Fentie will address the roundup at a public meeting, or in private.
The Yukon Chamber of Mines will host a “Yukon Night” Monday night at the roundup.
There is also a meeting between premiers and former prime minister Jean Chretien on Wednesday, said Byng Giraud, vice-president of corporate affairs for the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.
Giraud wasn’t able to confirm Fentie’s attendance by press time.
The Yukon has spent $15,000 for a Premier’s Reception at the roundup, according to the government’s contract registry.
There is no event listed in the roundup’s daytimer scheduled under the name Premier’s Reception.
Younker wasn’t available for clarification Monday morning.
Fentie hasn’t publicly spoken about the Peel since his government received the final recommended plan from the Peel Watershed Planning Commission last month.
That plan heavily endorsed protection for most of the Peel.
The Yukon government is currently in negotiations with the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation over the document.
It’s for that reason that environmentalists want to see Fentie put the Peel on the backburner at the Roundup.
“Because the planning process is at a critical stage now and consultations are ongoing between the parties to the plan, it only makes sense that mining companies would be good corporate citizens and avoid
trying to preclude the outcomes of these discussions,” said Dehn.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society also wants the government to slap a moratorium on staking in the region until a final plan is reached.
“We would love to see a co-operative approach at this point,” said Dehn.
Several Yukon First Nations will also be attending the roundup, which runs until Thursday.
Contact James Munson at firstname.lastname@example.org.