First Nation and YTG appeal court decision on staking consultation

Both the Ross River Dena Council and the Yukon government have appealed a recent Yukon Supreme Court decision on mineral staking.

Both the Ross River Dena Council and the Yukon government have appealed a recent Yukon Supreme Court decision on mineral staking.

The Kaska First Nation originally went to court over the government’s duty to consult it before issuing mineral claims in its traditional territory.

But it didn’t exactly get what it wanted.

In November, Justice Ron Veale ruled the government is obligated to consult with the First Nation, but not until after a mineral claim has been issued.

That still gives the First Nation enough time to determine the potential impact of exploration, while also giving some security to the claim holder, Veale wrote in his 33-page decision.

Fulfilling the duty to consult could be quite easy – simply emailing or giving the First Nation the government’s monthly report from the mining recorder would suffice, Veale said in his decision.

The Ross River Dena Council filed its notice of appeal on Dec. 3.

But it seems the territorial government didn’t like the ruling either and it filed a notice for a cross appeal on Dec. 15. It intends to argue there is no duty to consult before or after a mineral claim has been issued.

In his decision, Veale included a point of concern he discovered when reviewing the mining system in the territory.

A major reason he decided the government wasn’t obligated to consult with the First Nation until after a mineral claim was issued was because the government itself isn’t aware of a new claim until that point.

The claim holder’s notification to the mining recorder is the government’s first record of any new claims in the territory.

There is no notice or permit required for staking. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board doesn’t need an application until the exploration becomes more advanced.

Especially considering mineral exploration has reached unprecedented levels over the past two years, Veale questioned the government’ ability to monitor the work going on in the territory.

From January 2011 to the end of June, the number of quartz mining claims in good standing in the Yukon had increased by 68,542, said Veale. Each claim is 51 acres in size.

Exploration-program costs in that same time period have increased by about $100 million, he added.

In total, the Ross River Dena Council’s traditional territory makes up 13 per cent of the territory, or 63,110 square kilometres. That’s roughly the same size of Latvia or Lithuania, the decision said.

Fourteen per cent of that area is covered by 8,633 active mineral claims.

By the end of June 2011, there were a total of 226,961 quartz mining claims in good standing in the territory, Veale’s decision said.

The Yukon Court of Appeal is expected to deal with the case in May.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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