Mining road approved, despite assessors’ objections

The Yukon government has gone against the recommendations of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board and approved a new road off the North Canol.

The Yukon government has gone against the recommendations of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board and approved a new road off the North Canol.

Nidd Road is currently just 20 kilometres of trail, but Colorado Resources Ltd. wants better access to its quartz Oro property.

That involves ditching, clearing and grading, as well as the installation of 12 culverts. The proposed road crosses through the South MacMillan River. If fording proves difficult, the company may consider building a bridge.

The company also wants to build a new camp, complete with a septic system and fuel tanks.

The assessment board rejected these plans, saying impacts to wildlife, aquatic life and local outfitting businesses could not be mitigated. The territory disagreed.

It’s not fair that the government doesn’t have to listen to YESAB, said Lewis Rifkind with the Yukon Conservation Society. “They’re the independent environmental assessor, and like it or not, we (should) live with their decisions.”

Comparing this with the territory’s recent decision to agree with the board and turn down Canadian United Minerals’ plan to mine within Tombstone Territorial Park, Rifkind is left very confused.

From an environmental point of view, this road is arguably more detrimental than Joel White’s mine would have been, he said.

The problem is known as “road creep” or “road sprawl.”

There are other mining interests in the area, including North American Tungsten’s MacTung property. This road access could serve them as well, said Rifkind. It will also serve more hunters and hikers and will undoubtedly entice even more miners to come explore in the future, he added.

“We’re going to see more and more stuff happening,” he said. “We’re opening up the area. This proponent might have the best environmental policies in place, but it’s all the other yahoos they can’t control.”

Plus this is all happening before any kind of land-use plan or even First Nations’ land claims are settled in the area.

“It’s sort of putting the cart before the horse,” said Rifkind. “By the time this region gets around to land-use planning, what is that going to look like? It’s going to essentially be an extension of the North Canol. So when land-use planning comes into place, we’ve already made the decision by default. We’ve opened the area up, thanks to that road.”