Miners wanted more out of claim fee deal: e mails

Miners only received half of their demands when the territory forgave claim fees in the Peel Watershed last March, according to documents obtained through an access to information request.

Miners only received half of their demands when the territory forgave claim fees in the Peel Watershed last March, according to documents obtained through an access to information request.

The Yukon Chamber of Mines e-mailed Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Patrick Rouble on February 15 outlining compensation demands.

The e-mail was sparked by a staking moratorium enacted in the region during a review of the watershed’s land-use plan.

The letter, sent prior to a meeting with Rouble later that month, demands the suspension of all claim fees in the Peel during the year-long moratorium.

“They met us part way,” said Carl Schulze, the chamber’s president. “What they said was any claims that would expire prior to the lifting of the interim protection won’t expire.”

When a miner stakes a claim, they must perform $100 worth of exploration work annually to retain the claim. If no work is done, the miner must pay $100 cash in lieu to the government.

Claims can be staked for up to five-year periods. The government’s reprieve for claim fees only covers claims set to expire during the moratorium, which began last February and ends next February.

“We didn’t get protection for all claims, only the ones that would expire during the interim protection,” said Schulze.

“So, let’s say your expiry date was September 1, 2010. That would be postponed until September 1, 2011,” he said.

“But if you have a claim that was good until September 1, 2014 for example, you still had to do the work in a year,” he said. “It’s still only good until that day.”

The government did not provide an explanation for not granting a reprieve to all claim holders.

“I don’t recall any specific reason that they stated,” said Schulze. “They just said this is what we’ll grant you.”

Rouble wouldn’t comment on the decision or the meeting between him and the chamber last February.

“Minister Rouble won’t be commenting on the Peel,” said Emily Younker, head of cabinet communications.

“The minister might have his own reasons for not responding, all I have is the message that he won’t be responding,” she said.

The meeting included other public servants in the Energy, Mines and Resources Department, said Schulze. He would not say who else attended.

The claim freeze extends to nearly 2,400 claims set to expire during the moratorium, said Bryony McIntyre, the department’s mineral, planning and development manager, in a previous interview with the News.

In total, there are about 9,000 claims in the Peel Watershed.

The New Democratic Party criticized the claim relief in a news release last month, claiming the government would lose $250,000 in revenue.

“(The government) probably wouldn’t have lost that much money because (miners) would have probably done the work rather than pay cash in lieu,” said Schulze.

“The only way the government would have lost the $250,000 would be due to the strong likelihood the Peel will become protected, and, I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, who would invest in it?” said Schulze.

“The amount that the government is out of pocket is pretty tiny,” he said.

The letter to Rouble was obtained through an access to information request for all correspondence between the chamber and the Energy, Mines and Resources Department. Initially, the department declared no such correspondence existed. After a formal complaint by the News, dozens of emails were handed over.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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