The court orders regarding new territorial mining regulations have been met, the government says.
But staking on the Ross River Dena Council’s land has been banned until at least the end of April so a few critical details can be worked out.
The changes come in response to a Yukon Court of Appeal decision from December 2012 surrounding the government’s duty to consult with the First Nation even for the lowest level of exploration activities.
The government is dealing with the ruling through amendments to the Quartz Mining Act and Placer Mining Act and the associated regulations.
They had until Dec. 27, 2013 to put the new rules in place.
Bob Holmes, director of mineral resources for the Department of Energy Mines and Resources, explained that the court orders essentially came in two parts.
The first was to consult with the First Nation on work being done, even the lowest level – or class one – type of work.
That includes clearing trees, building trails, digging up rock and even the use of explosives.
Prior to the court’s ruling notification on that type of work was not required.
The second declaration from the court was about reaching an agreement on lands to possibly be set aside from stalking all together.
Most of the changes approved by the legislature at the end of December had to do with the first order.
“We’ve amended the Quartz and Placer Mining Acts to give the government the authority to designate areas of the Yukon where a notification for the low level, class one, work is required,” Holmes said.
“Where the miner would have to give us a notice and that would allow us to consult with the First Nation on that low-level work.”
Right now the government has used that authority only on the Ross River area. It’s the area that was the subject of the original lawsuit.
There has been speculation that the ruling could have implications through the Yukon and beyond, but Holmes would not speculate.
“What happens in the future depends, I don’t know. I know we will be talking with the Liard First Nation in the future and with the White River First Nation. But at this point in time we just specifically addressed the court order for Ross River,” he said.
After the notice is given, the new regulations say the government has 25 days to consult with the First Nation.
As for exactly what that consultation will look like, Holmes said the new regulations do not provide a specific definition.
He said the government consults with First Nations on a number of different types of permits.
“It’s pretty well established what we do,” he said.
“We just have to have meaningful dialogue and really understand where their aboriginal rights may be impacted and make sure the project is mitigated somehow so that doesn’t happen.”
He said the government still believes there should be situations where no notification is required.
Officials will be working for the next few months to define exactly what that lower threshold will look like, Holmes said.
As for the order surrounding a possible staking ban in some areas, he said the government needed more time for discussions with the Ross River Dena Council.
So, until the end of April, there is a ban on staking in the entire area. When the work with the First Nation is done, the complete ban will be lifted and the new deal put in place, Holmes said.
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