Peel a ‘no go zone:’ miners

The level of uncertainty for mining exploration in the Peel watershed “couldn’t possibly be understated,” according to Samson Hartland.

The level of uncertainty for mining exploration in the Peel watershed “couldn’t possibly be understated,” according to Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

His comments come on the heels of last week’s court case over the region’s land use plans.

First Nations and environmental groups have sued the Yukon government for introducing its own plan for the region, which opens 71 per cent of the area to new mineral staking.

They argued that the plan recommended by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission, allowing staking in only 20 per cent of the watershed, is the only legal land use plan.

But neither plan is friendly to the mining industry, said Hartland.

He called the Yukon government’s plan “complicated” and “fairly restrictive.”

That plan is the one currently in effect in the region, according to the Yukon government.

“In between the restrictive nature of the plan and the uncertainty around the court case and of course the public’s sensitivities around the uncertainties at this stage, it’s clear that the area is a no-go zone right now, to anybody who is paying attention,” said Hartland. “There’s no question.”

On top of that the two First Nations that launched the lawsuit, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, have made it clear that they do not want to see the industry in the area, he said.

“We certainly understand that it’s not the wishes of NND or TH for anybody to go in there until this issue is resolved, and we respect that and we’ve certainly communicated that to our membership.”

Mike Power, president of the Yukon Prospectors’ Association, said that a ruling in favour of the government wouldn’t do much for the industry.

The government’s plan amounts to effective expropriation of the existing claims in the watershed, but “it’s a little like getting smothered with a pillow,” he said.

“Under the current land use plan that the government has proposed, the area is basically going to be a no-go area. It’s not going to be easy at all to do anything in there with the restrictions they are proposing. I think anybody who is worried about the mining industry flooding into the Peel if the court case doesn’t go their way is wrong.

“It’s cleverly crafted. It’s sort of telling a home owner that, sure, you own the land, but you can’t put a road in front of it, you can’t run power or water in there, but it’s your land, and if you want to try and build a house go ahead, just use a helicopter to get in.”

The solution is for all the parties to come back to the negotiating table, said Hartland.

“We’d like to see people talk about what land use planning means, and to take stock of land use planning in the territory, because certainly right now it seems like we’ve hit a bit of a wall and are asking the courts to decide what land use planning means for the territory.”

The Yukon government estimates that $50 million has been spent exploring in the Peel in the last decade, he said.

“It sort of magnifies and confirms that mining and the environment can co-exist, because this is a region that has had this amount of dollars spent in it, and it’s still viewed as pristine.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 23

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read