Map of coal leases around Division Mountain.

NDP MLA calls Yukon coal project ‘application of insanity’

Project is strictly exploratory, proponent says

A proposal for an exploratory coal project has raised concern for NDP MLA Kate White.

The project would take place 90 kilometres north of Whitehorse at Division Mountain, near Braeburn, and would last two years. After a full review process, the Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board has recommended that the project be accepted. The government has the ability to accept or reject that recommendation.

White called the proposal “insanity.”

“The government has climate commitments,” she said. “If they allow (a coal project) to go forward, what is that broadcasting?”

White said that with concerns about climate change, it would be very disturbing to her if the Liberals allowed the project to go through.

“Where do (the Liberals) stand on coal? That’s what I want to know,” White said.

“You can’t say you’re committed to your (climate) action plan if you allow coal.”

Kevin Brewer, a consultant geologist for 2560334 Ontario Inc., the company proposing the project, said that White’s comments were “highly inappropriate.”

Brewer has said previously that coal in the Yukon is a “non-story” for the company. He stresses that his application is not actually to mine for coal, but to look for it, which is what YESAB has approved.

“I think Ms.White has been a little bit naive in her approach to this,” he said. “We’re not proposing to mine at this time, we’re proposing to do a very small scale exploration.”

“It’s not being done at a level that will impact things,” he said.

Speculation has swirled around whether the company actually intends to mine for coal. Brewer stated in a previous interview that 2560334 Ontario Inc. “has been recently formed and does not intend to focus its activities on coal or the development of coal in the Yukon.”

White said that if they don’t actually want to mine for coal, she doesn’t understand “why on earth” the government would let them explore for it, and accused Brewer of “mining for investors.”

“We’re not even talking about a large scale investment here — it’s speculative and crazy-making,” she said.

Exploration by previous companies has shown there is 50 million tonnes of coal in the area, Brewer said. The project proposed has a budget of $250,000, he said, but parent companies to 2560334 Ontario Inc. spent “millions on the site previously.”

That work has demonstrated that exporting coal would not be “economically feasible” due to the cost of transport, he said. A “mine-mouth” generating project — where the company would sell the coal someone else near the mine to generate electricity —was an option the company discussed, but was not in any way planned for or analyzed for viability. The project, he said, is strictly exploratory.

“If you’ve invested $10 million into a project, do you think investing ($250,000) is going to change what you do?” Brewer said.

“Proposing an outright ban on exploration and/or mining of a commodity is a very complex and serious issue that goes beyond considering a singular issue such as climate change. It also presents a serious threat to the overall perception of Yukon as a place for exploration investment,” Brewer said via email.

Energy, Mines and Resources Yukon has a webpage dedicated to coal, which identifies it as a “local energy resource that has potential for supplying both local needs and export markets.” White said this statement is astonishing.

“How are we talking about coal in 2017?” she said.

“The idea that, in 2017, we’d mine for coal is the application of insanity.”

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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