New placer regime ‘on track’: Lang

Talk about land use planning. The Yukon Placer Secretariat is mapping every creek and stream in the southern half of the territory for its new…

Talk about land use planning.

The Yukon Placer Secretariat is mapping every creek and stream in the southern half of the territory for its new placer mining regime.

Various governments have been working on the regime since 2002.

They have been dividing the Yukon into 18 authorization zones according to watersheds with certain activities allowed on specific waterways at specific times throughout the year.

“We’re going to pre-classify all the streams in each watershed, so the placer miner, even before they apply for a licence, will know what kind of licence and regulations will apply to their future minings,” said Claire Derome, acting director of the Yukon placer secretariat.

The regime takes an “adaptive management” approach designed to balance sustainable industry with conservation principles, said Derome.

“The regime is not one-size-fits-all, it takes into consideration all the streams in the Yukon, in a specific watershed, and their capacity to sustain fish and fish habitat,” she said this week.

“Depending on that, different levels of mining practice are going to be allowed.

“Specific discharge standards for placer operations are going to be different, depending on the classification of the stream.

“A placer miner will then be in a position to design a proper installation, and know the recoveries and economics of the operation before investing money.”

The management zones end at the Klondike.

At present, there’s no need for regulation in North Yukon because there’s essentially no placer industry, added Derome.

The regime will cost $738,000 per year to monitor and enforce, split between the territorial and federal governments, said Energy, Mines and Resources minister Archie Lang.

Bureaucrats are currently consulting with First Nations and aiming to complete the regime next year so that it can take effect at the start of the 2008 mining season.

“Industry has been abreast of everything that has been going on,” said Lang.

“By the year 2007 we have to have a new authorization in place. It will be in place.”

The Klondike Placer Miners Association is confident the new authorization will provide certainty to industry.

“Working from a watershed basis makes sense,” association president Mike McDougall said Tuesday during a break from a weeklong placer mining workshop in Whitehorse attended by industry, government and conservation groups.

“Each individual watershed has its own unique characteristics, and it’s probably best that we look at it in that way, because we’re looking at not just one little part of the watershed, but the whole watershed as it works and connects up with the ecosystem” said McDougall.

McDougall manages a claim on the Sixtymile River, which is one of the regime’s new identified watersheds.

However, the regime is designed to be flexible, and the management of each waterway could change once affected First Nations have been consulted.

The Yukon placer secretariat has had face-to-face consultations with every First Nation in the territory, said Derome.

“The hope is that we won’t get into this process again, of having an authorization that needs to be phased out and replaced by another one.

“We will be able to make change as we go along to the authorizations, and maintain them as current as possible.”

So far, First Nations are content with the consultations process, said Council of Yukon First Nations spokeswoman Gail Barnaby.

“There was a record of agreement that was signed, and CYFN was one of the signatories,” said Barnaby.

“One of the areas that we feel is important is that traditional knowledge be incorporated into the regime.

“When these watershed authorizations are developed it’s important that they consider all the types of information out there, including traditional knowledge, and not just the scientific part of the information.

“Traditional knowledge has the same amount of value as the scientific information, so it’s important it be included in any decision making.”

Exactly how traditional knowledge will influence the regime will differ from waterway to waterway.

First Nations can share their traditional knowledge over the next nine months.

“We’ve outlined this framework for placer mining, these decision rule pieces, and now we take these out and bring them in to play at a watershed level,” said Bonnie Antcliffe, a wildlife manager with the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“We go out, we look at local knowledge, traditional knowledge, other types of material that is coming back in, and take those into account to adjust the regime framework,” said Antcliffe.

“We take those into account when we write up a watershed authorization for each of the watersheds.”

The new regime will employ current water and mining permits.

Any new claims will be subject to the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Act.