Seven companies have relinquished more than half of the outstanding mining claims located in the Peel Watershed’s conservation areas.
“It is truly refreshing to see that large mining corporations have a social conscience,” said Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Chief Simon Mervyn in a press release from Jan. 31.
Newmont Corporation is relinquishing 1,835 claims in the Wind, Bonnet Plume and Snake River areas of the Peel region. Bernard Kreft, Generic Gold and ATAC Resources are also claim holders in the region who have relinquished mineral claims, while the remaining three chose not to publicly disclose their involvement.
In total, seven companies have relinquished 5,031 of the 7,298 claims that were located in the conservation areas.
Newmont, the U.S.-based owner of the Coffee Mine Project outside Dawson City, said their claims in the Peel area had potential for copper and gold, but active exploration has ceased since the watershed plan was imminent.
CEO Tom Palmer said in a statement that he supports the plan and its environmental goals.
In exchange for relinquishing claims in the Peel region, the claim holders will be granted relief from work requirements on claims held elsewhere in the Yukon. In order to renew a claim, the owner has to do annual work amounting to $100 per claim or pay the fee outright.
Agreements were reached in partnership with the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation, Gwich’in Tribal Council and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation.
The chiefs of all three groups praised the companies for relinquishing their claims.
“I would like to recognize the responsible approach to this issue by Newmont and the six other mining companies, through their decision to relinquish their mining claims within the Peel Watershed,” said Gwitch’in Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik, in a statement.
“The Gwich’in people are not against mining, but the risk to our culture and well-being from large-scale industrial activity in the Peel Watershed is simply too great,” he said.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph added that the actions by the companies are encouraging that the land use planning responsibilities in the Final Agreements will be upheld.
“With the relinquishment of mining claims within the Peel Watershed, Newmont has shown a commitment to environmental responsibility and importantly, they have demonstrated a commitment to upholding and respecting the outcomes of regional land use planning,” she said.
The land use plan for the approximately 68,000 square kilometre area was approved in August 2019, after a lengthy legal battle that culminated in the Supreme Court of Canada siding with First Nations who wanted the majority of the area protected.
As a result of that decision, the final land use plan reserves 55 per cent as a special management area, 28 per cent as wilderness area and 17 per cent open to some future development as integrated management area.
Around 2,000 claims remain in the area, but the government said negotiations continue to settle them.
“Their agreements to relinquish claims within the Peel region are an example of responsible mining practices, which value environmental stewardship,” said energy, mines and resources minister John Streicker in a release.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com