It’s hard to get a straight answer from the Yukon mining industry on whether protecting the Peel Watershed will hurt the Yukon economy.
Last April, when the Peel Watershed Planning Commission released its draft recommended plan, the Yukon Chamber of Mines feared the conservation-minded document spelled the death of the territory’s dynamic mining sector.
“It’s going to be an economic disaster for the Yukon, there’s no question about that,” Carl Schulze, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, told the CBC last April.
Today, after attending Vancouver’s Mineral Exploration Roundup, Schulze is calmer about the Peel.
This, even though the final recommended plan advocates stronger protection for the Peel region.
“It’s probably scared off investors who have anything in the Peel, but anywhere else I think investment toward the Yukon is looking quite strong,” said Schulze in an interview from Vancouver.
“The people who are non-Yukoners, they’re not too concerned,” he said.
In other words, the Peel plan - which can still undergo major changes during negotiations between the Yukon and First Nation governments - hasn’t scared off investors considering the Yukon.
But Yukon miners are still worried about it, said Schulze.
“It raises the threat that subsequent plans could be similar,” he said.
“All it takes is for another plan to look like the Peel in its draft phases and, if that happens a third time or a fourth, it’s just going to start shutting down the areas one by one.”
Any potential investor in the Peel region should be wary, he said.
The Yukon has received a lot of attention at the roundup, an annual get-together for mining bigwigs and political brass.
The discovery of a major gold vein at the White Gold project near Dawson generated substantive buzz in Vancouver, said Schulze.
“That brought a lot of interest, and there was a lot of success in the Keno Hill area too,” he said.
Increased Chinese investment in Selwyn Resource’s lead-zinc body was also big news.
Around 3,000 people attended Yukon Night on Monday, an event hosted by the chamber, said Schulze.
He also attended the Premier’s Reception, where both Premier Dennis Fentie and Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang addressed the crowd.
“It was a little hard to hear,” said Schulze. “But basically (they said) that we’re open for business.”
Yukon environmental groups demanded Fentie mention the recommended protection of the Peel Watershed at the conference.
Officials at the Executive Council Office did not release the contents of Fentie’s speech by press time.
The government and mining companies are being criticized by the Liard First Nation.
“Our citizens are extremely frustrated with the lack of information from companies, and with the lack of intent to actually engage in meaningful consultation,” Liard First Nation Chief Laird McMillan said in a news release.
Companies have been less than willing to work co-operatively with the Liard First Nation, McMillan said in the release.
Often, they just show up demanding a signature that they consulted, he said.
McMillan also attacked Ottawa for leaving the First Nation helpless while it is inundated with mining applications it can’t afford to deal with diligently.
“There is simply no money, no resources, and no time for us to respond to referrals - and governments and industry are very well aware of this,” said McMillan.
He could not be reached for comment before press time.
Several aboriginal leaders are attending the mining conference this year.
Representatives from the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in and the Liard First Nations are attending.
This week, they issued a letter supporting protection of the Peel Watershed (see page 7).
Contact James Munson at