A road leads up to Copper North’s camp at the proposed Carmacks Copper heap-leach mine. The Yukon government is looking to change the way mining roads are regulated to prevent them from being used so frequently that they become permanent public roads. (Submitted/Copper North Mining Corp.)

Road block: Yukon government to tighten mining road rules

‘We want to make sure that if roads become public it’s through a managed process’

The Yukon government is looking to change the way mining roads are regulated to prevent them from being used so frequently that they become permanent public roads.

Proposed changes to the territorial land use regulations are part of a public survey that runs from now until July 23.

Those regulations cover roads for mining, oil and gas, and gravel projects.

Permits currently issued for these types of roads primarily cover the construction phase, said Mike Draper, a legislation advisor and negotiator with the Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources (EMR).

Often roads built under the EMR permit also get used by RVs, hunters, snowmobilers or other mining companies, for example, he said. “Eventually what would happen is it would become a public road by virtue of the public accessing it.”

The intent of changing the rules “is to make sure that the road remains a resource road, is closed and remediated,” he said.

The current regulations limit financial security to $100,000, which is “insufficient to cover today’s costs of addressing environmental damage and road closure and decommissioning,” according to the government survey.

“The land use regulation also has limited restoration provisions that do not apply beyond the three-year life of a permit,” it says.

Draper said the proposed new regulations would lay out rules for the whole life of the road covering construction, maintenance, use and closures and remediation.

“So, at the end of the day, if Company A comes in and wants to build a road … they follow through right until the very end.”

Draper said the government has heard concerns, including from First Nations and resource councils, about the environmental impact of taking roads that were not originally intended to be permanent and making them into public roads.

“We want to make sure that if roads become public it’s through a managed process rather than a backdoor approach as it is with resource roads.”

Under the new rules anyone who wants to use a resource road, such as a First Nation, will have to negotiate permission from the mining company.

Unlike a resource road which is managed by the EMR, once a road becomes public and permanent it gets plowed and maintained by the Department of Highways and Public Works.

Draper said the changes will also provide more clarity for what everyone’s responsibility is.

Draper said Yukoners will still have a chance to discuss the possibility of make a mining road public if that is what people want, but the government is looking for a more planned approach.

“Industry and the public have built roads over the years since the days of the gold rush,” he said.

“I’m not saying that we’re going to prevent new public roads, that will be determined down the road by government, but what I’m saying is that there is a lot of existing roads out there right now that can be used by the public.”

The most well-known resource roads coming in the future are roads slated to be built by mining companies as part of the Resource Gateway Project. The project, worth nearly half a billion dollars, was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Whitehorse last year. The owners of the Casino and Coffee mines will be paying $108 million for two controlled access roads to their respective mine sites.

Draper said the importance of having the regulations in place was not driven by specific projects but he said the hope is to have the new regulations in place in time for those roads to proceed under the new rules.

The survey can be found online at

https://survey.gov.yk.ca/2018-EMR-Resource-Roads-Consultation.aspx

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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