Hikers rest at Mount MacDonald, near the Snake River in the Peel Watershed in 2013. A Peel watershed final land use agreement was signed on Aug. 23, leaving most of the area protected, but now the Yukon government’s refusal to compensate mining claim holders in the area could be the subject of litigation. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Miners could sue YG over handling of Peel watershed claims: chamber

‘It amounts to de facto expropriation’

The Yukon government’s refusal to compensate mining claim holders in the Peel watershed could be the subject of litigation, said the executive director the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

“It amounts to de facto expropriation,” said Samson Hartland. “It’s their prerogative. We think it’s a fairly dangerous precedent.”

Hartland is referring to the final Peel watershed plan, which was inked by the territorial and First Nations governments on Aug. 22.

Premier Sandy Silver told the media then that compensation for claim holders wasn’t being considered yet.

Eighty-three per cent of the Peel watershed is now designated conservation land; 17 per cent is open to industrial development.

That the area is open a crack to development doesn’t matter, though, Hartland said.

“The reality is that 100 per cent of the region is inaccessible and uneconomic due to the access limitations and requirements contained in the plan. Long story short, ground access is essentially prohibited for all intents and purposes,” he said, adding that entering the area by air would be too expensive. “The stakes are very, very high with the Peel and they’re higher than ever for all of the Yukon.”

The chamber says the Peel plan sets a precedent at a time when another land use plan is coming to down the chute – the Dawson area one.

Mike McDougall, the president of the Klondike Placers Miners’ Association, echoed Hartland but delved into a piece of the Peel plan that only offers interim protection.

Those spots — which account for 25 per cent of the protected areas —are to be reviewed once every 10 years. If a change is to occur, there must be a consensus among all parties.

McDougall called this “onerous.”

“Mother Nature has provided mineral resources in very specific spots in the world. In order to determine where those are, responsible developers need access to 100 per cent of the land-mass.”

There are thousands of mineral claims in the Peel watershed. According to the final plan, there are roughly 8,400 active quartz claims alone.

No new industrial land use or surface access is permitted in the conservation area, the plan says, but “existing mineral claims or leases may be respected, and pre-existing, non-industrial land uses are respected.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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