New mining amendments represent a failure of the Yukon government to co-operate with both industry and First Nations, says interim Liberal Leader Sandy Silver.
“It’s broken. The system is broken,” he said in an interview yesterday.
The Yukon government tabled amendments to the Placer Mining Act and the Quartz Mining Act earlier this month.
The government says that the changes were designed to meet the requirements of a Yukon Court of Appeal decision that result from a lawsuit filed by the Ross River Dena Council.
The court found that the government must consult and accommodate the First Nation on staking and low-level exploration activities on its traditional territory.
Currently, anyone may stake a claim and complete Class 1 exploration activities without notifying the government or affected First Nations. That level of work includes clearing trees, building trails, digging up rock and even the use of explosives.
The legislative amendments will empower the government to require notification and consultation on Class 1 exploration in some yet-to-be-determined areas of the Yukon.
The government also plans to consult with the Ross River Dena Council to determine if certain areas of the traditional territory should be withdrawn from staking.
But changing the territory’s mining regime could have been avoided if the government had tried to work out a solution with the First Nation and industry, said Silver.
The industry had already been consulting with Ross River on a resolution before the government imposed its own ideas without consulting either, he said.
Mines Minister Scott Kent contested this in the legislature yesterday, and said that none of the miners he has talked to from the Chamber of Mines or the Yukon Prospectors Association knew of any companies trying to work out a solution with the First Nation independently.
While the government may now be consulting the industry and First Nations on how the amendments will be applied, it missed an opportunity by failing to reach an agreement that would not require legislation, said Silver.
The amendments also include changes unrelated to the court decision, he said.
The bill allows for regulations to identify areas where “special operating conditions” can be applied.
Miners are “very, very afraid of that wording,” said Silver. “They’re very, very afraid of what that actually does.”
The impact of the change will be determined by the regulations yet to be associated with it.
And that creates uncertainty for industry, said Silver.
That amendment has nothing to do with the Ross River court case, he said.
“This has a lot more to do with land use management, and land use planning, than it does this particular First Nation’s court case.”
The change likely has to do with the government’s recent actions on the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan and other big decisions yet to come, said Silver.
The government has indicated that it will reject the Peel commission’s final recommended plan, which would rule out staking in 80 per cent of the region, in favour of one that would see active, case-by-case management of the area.
The tabled amendments would allow for this sort of active management.
The government likely saw the Ross River court decision as an opportunity to make unrelated changes to the mining regime, said Silver.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at