New mining rules will cover half of Yukon

The new Class 1 exploration regime will apply to 47 per cent of the territory as of next week, a spokesperson for Energy, Mines and Resources has confirmed.

The new Class 1 exploration regime will apply to 47 per cent of the territory as of next week, a spokesperson for Energy, Mines and Resources has confirmed.

Under the new rules, mining claim holders must notify the government of all low-level exploration activities that will take place on a claim.

The government must then notify any potentially affected First Nations and make accommodations where necessary.

Before these rules, companies could conduct grassroots exploration without telling anyone.

The exempt activities included things like cutting trails up to 1.5 metres in width and using explosives.

But that changed thanks to a 2012 Yukon Court of Appeal decision that found the Ross River Dena Council’s aboriginal rights were infringed by the Class 1 exploration regime.

The government implemented the new Class 1 rules to the Ross River area at the end of 2013, and added parts of the Peel watershed earlier this year.

Other First Nations demanded the same consideration, and the Taku River Tlingit and the Kaska Dena Council filed lawsuits to that effect.

For that reason, the new Class 1 rules are being extended to Category A and B settlement land of Yukon First Nations and the traditional territories of unsettled First Nations.

But this new regime, covering nearly half the territory, is only an interim step towards territory-wide rules that the government hopes will be in place for the 2015 exploration season.

“There’s obviously some work that we need to do before then,” said Mines Minister Scott Kent in an interview this week.

The plan is to consult with industry and First Nations over the coming year and agree on a set of very low-level exploration activities that could be exempt from the new notification rules.

The idea is to find those activities that currently fall under Class 1 that won’t have significant impacts on the land, and allow prospectors to continue to do those without telling anyone.

The trick will be getting 11 settled Yukon First Nations, three unsettled First Nations, a number of First Nations based outside the Yukon with overlapping territory, and the mining industry to all agree.

“‘We need (First Nations and industry) to be willing partners, and they have indicated that they’re interested in pursuing those discussions,” said Kent.

“Prospecting and this early-stage exploration is a crucial part of the health of the mining industry and the sustainability of the mining industry in the territory and we want to make sure that everybody understands that, and that industry is able to communicate what they need to operate not only to ourselves, but to our First Nations partners.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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