Miners alter Peel plan

After being pressured by mining lobbyists, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission cobbled together its development-friendly third option just hours before Tuesday's public presentation in Whitehorse. The two original scenarios h

After being pressured by mining lobbyists, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission cobbled together its development-friendly third option just hours before Tuesday’s public presentation in Whitehorse.

The two original scenarios had been printed, put on posters and advertised as the only two options for a land-use plan in the Peel. The commission toured the communities with just two options in hand. And the 73-page report, published on January 31, presents only two options.

One favoured conservation, while the other offered a territory with winter roads for mining.

In an interview last week, senior planner Reg Whiten only mentioned a pro-development third scenario in passing.

But the two options were not acceptable to the Chamber of Mines, an outfit that lobbies on behalf of financial interests with a stake in the Peel.

During a sneak preview of the presentation earlier in the day, chamber president Carl Schulze convinced the commission to add the third scenario to its open house presentation that evening.

“We viewed a very similar (presentation) in a private meeting with the Peel Planning Commission,” said Schulze.

“It was basically portrayed then as it was portrayed in the (evening) meeting with the exception of scenario three, which came out that afternoon, just before the presentation,” said Schulze.

When people flooded into a crowded conference room at the Westmark for Whiten’s presentation, there was a page with that third scenario slipped into a pre-printed brochure featuring just two scenarios.

And Whiten even added a slide of the third scenario into the PowerPoint display.

Scenario three shows that the commission is finally listening to the people who invest in the Peel and all the economic spinoff that comes from that investment, said Schulze.

“(Scenario three) is starting to put a consideration for that sector,” he said.

It’s not clear what convinced the commission to change its mind.

The “idea” of having a third scenario with a emphasis on development has incubated during the commission’s travels through the northern Yukon, said Whiten.

But it was not included in the presentations in Mayo, Inuvik or Dawson.

It was only mentioned in passing.

“We had some discussions (in Dawson) with the chamber to understand what a mineral scenario would look like,” he said.

“They directly raised the issue of access,” said Whiten. The mining sector needs certainty access will be there for investment, but also some certainty that a mine proposal can be made, he said.

“It’s very difficult for them to respond to a (scenario) unless there’s some assurances that there’s going to be some access,” he said.

The Peel is a swath of undisturbed wilderness the size of Scotland, but mining companies say their cleanup standards have changed since the days of Faro, said Whiten.

The lobby hasn’t provided any concrete examples of how sustainable mining works, but “they’re bringing what they can,” he said.

“We’re asking for that kind of information,” he said.

There were no plans to revisit the communities that only saw the two first scenarios presented, but this is an early stage of the planning process, said Whiten.

The commission told the Na-Cho Nyak Dun that it was working on a third scenario, but that wasn’t part of the formal presentation, said Dawna Hope, a lands policy analyst for the First Nation.

In Inuvik, the Gwich’in Tribal Council got the same treatment.

“We were giving a presentation on the two possible options,” said Melody Nice Paul, chief operating officer for the Gwich’in Tribal Council, a group that housed the Inuvik presentation but isn’t formally linked to the planning commission.

“We heard in a brief discussion that there is potential for a third scenario,” she said.

The Dawson presentation only included the first two scenarios, but, again, a third scenario was mentioned.

“They did not have the maps ready at the time,” said Renee Mayes, the land and resources manager for the Tr’ondek Hwech’in.

The chamber’s antipathy toward the original scenarios resulted from the fact they only mentioned winter roads, said Reg Whiten.

“In scenario two we only talked about winter access, and in the third one we really talked about permanent access and that’s why we had to show it,” he said.

Regulatory bodies raised the issue of mineral access after reviewing the two first scenarios in mid-January, said Whiten.

“There are legal considerations in there as well,” said Whiten.

Whiten was going to get more on the legal implications of licences and permits on Thursday, he said.

The draft, due in April, will firm up details of the Peel land-use plan, he said.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. City of Whitehorse city council past the first reading of a rezoning ammendment that would allow for a Dairy Queen to be build on Range Road along the Alaska Highway. (Submitted)
Public hearing set for rezoning of 107 Range Road

Petition for Dairy Queen drive-thru garners more than 1,800 signatures

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

(Submitted)
History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

Most Read