New mining access road worries local residents

Yasmine Djabri is concerned about North American Tungsten Corporation's plans to drive a new, 45-kilometre-long mine access road through key wildlife habitat, even though another servicable access road exists.

Yasmine Djabri is concerned about North American Tungsten Corporation’s plans to drive a new, 45-kilometre-long mine access road through key wildlife habitat, even though another servicable access road exists.

The worry comes after Djabri has spent her evenings and weekends over the last month poring through thousands of pages of documents for the proposed Mactung mine near Ross River.

The Faro resident is worried the new road, which will split off from the North Canol Road 200 kilometres north of Ross River, will disturb moose, caribou, sheep and bears that heavily use the area.

The road, aside from opening up herding land, will run right beside an important mineral lick, a critical source of nutrition for area wildlife, said Djabri.

The company plans to build the road about 600 metres from the mineral lick, according to a proposal to the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board.

That’s not a large enough buffer, said Djabri.

“If you put the road 600 metres from the lick, you’ll come enormously close to disturbing the animals,” she said.

“Half a kilometre is nothing.”

She’s not the only one who is worried about the road.

Ross River residents are also concerned, said Greg McLeod, Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment co-ordinator for Ross River.

“People are worried about the road going through land where there is a mineral lick, a really soft spot for grizzly bears, sheep and moose,” he said.

An old 11-kilometre road sitting just north of the Macmillan Pass aerodrome could be upgraded to provide access to the road, but North American Tungsten is pushing instead for a new road.

The company doesn’t want to use the old road because it passes through the Northwest Territories.

Using it would require the company to go through additional environmental assessments and strike a partnership with the Sahtu First Nations who have land claims in that area.

Doing so “would place a significant additional financial burden and project risks on NATC,” the company wrote in its submission to the Yukon environmental assessment board.

Although the company acknowledges the existence of the older road, the road itself isn’t visible in any of the maps the company provided in its assessment proposal.

“The company took great care to take out the existing access roads,” said Djabri. “If you look at all the maps you can’t find that road.”

North American Tungsten held a meeting in early November to discuss the project, but not enough people in the Ross River area knew about the meeting to attend it, said McLeod.

The community wants the company to hold another meeting because they feel as though the project is being pushed through too quickly in order to begin construction in the spring, he said.

He also wants to see the company consult the leadership of the Ross River Dena Council and involve the Ross River community wherever possible.

“People here don’t want another Yukon Zinc happening,” said McLeod.

“With Yukon Zinc, (the company) hired out of the territory from Fort St. John and we want a lot of employment for our people here in Ross River,” said McLeod.

Jarrett Deuling, who owns Deuling Stone Outfitters, is also nervous about how the road will affect him.

“It’s going to have a potentially huge impact on my business and lifestyle,” he said, explaining that his wilderness company runs exactly out of the area where the new road is being proposed.

“It’s looking as though the life of the mine will only be 13 years, but this project will affect the area forever.”

The construction of a new road will open up the area to increased hunting pressures and ATV use, all activities that strain local wildlife, he said

“The most frustrating part is that a road already exists … so why is the company pushing for a new one?”

Deuling is one of several people who requested a deadline extension from the Yukon Environmental Socio-Economic Assessment Board to better review the thousands of pages of documents submitted by the company.

Today is the final day that people can comment on the project.

North American Tungsten did not return calls about their proposal before press time.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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