Proposed changes to the Yukon’s mining acts will require prospectors to notify the government before working their claims.
Yukon launched a consultation on the proposal Monday.
The changes come from a December 2012 Yukon Court of Appeal decision that found that the asserted aboriginal rights of the Ross River Dena Council are infringed upon by allowing free staking and the working of mineral claims without notification or consultation within the unsettled First Nation’s traditional territory.
The Yukon government disagrees that free staking can infringe upon the rights of First Nations, and has applied for leave to appeal that part of the court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
However, it has accepted that allowing Class 1 mineral exploration to proceed on claims could in some cases infringe on the rights of both settled and unsettled First Nations, and has agreed to make amendments to the rules accordingly.
“Our primary concern, of course, is fulfilling our obligation to meet the court declaration we accepted, and to do so by December 27 of this year as per our legal obligations,” said Mining Minister Brad Cathers at a press conference Monday.
The proposed regulatory changes will affect all mining exploration across the Yukon, despite the fact that the court ruling was specific to the Quartz Mining Act and to the Ross River Dena Council.
“Though the placer act is not a subject of the court decision, the provisions within it with regards to exploration activities are virtually identical to those within the Quartz Mining Act,” said Cathers.
Currently, anyone holding a mining claim can complete Class 1 activities without notifying the government or affected First Nations. That level of work includes clearing trees, building trails, digging up rock and even the use of explosives.
Class 1 activities include low-impact exploration programs that are limited to one year.
Higher classes of exploration activities require assessment through the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.
The proposed changes would require prospectors to notify the government about all Class 1 exploration activities they intend to complete on their claims.
The government would in turn notify any potentially affected First Nations of the proposal.
A public registry will list the date of entry, name of operator, location and duration of the exploration activity.
From that point, there would be 25 days for the government to either deny the activities, request modifications, require payment of a security, or determine if an extension is required.
There would be no formal approval, and any projects where the government has not intervened after 25 days would be deemed approved as proposed.
Consultation with and accommodation of the First Nation will be required in cases where the proposed activities might affect its treaty rights or asserted rights.
These could include the right to hunt and fish, or in the case of settled First Nations, surface rights on Category B settlement lands.
The government has also proposed giving the Mines minister the power to designate special areas of concern where additional operating conditions might apply to exploration activities.
An example could be limiting access to certain areas during the lambing or calving season when disturbance to wildlife is a concern.
More information about the proposed changes is available at www.emr.gov.yk.ca/mining.
The government will accept comments on the proposed changes until July 31.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at