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