Staking a capital juggling act

The City of Whitehorse had very little say in the mineral staking ban that now covers three-quarters of its land. Last week's decision to ban new quartz mining claims in the capital, except in two parcels west of Crestview and McRae, came from the territory.

The City of Whitehorse had very little say in the mineral staking ban that now covers three-quarters of its land.

Last week’s decision to ban new quartz mining claims in the capital, except in two parcels west of Crestview and McRae, came from the territory. And it came from an effort to juggle two territorial acts: the Municipal Act and the Quartz Mining Act.

The Municipal Act gives some jurisdiction to the city. It allows municipal managers to create an Official Community Plan to say what land can be used for what. The Quartz Mining Act, however, allows free-entry staking across the territory.

Once city planners consulted with the public and adopted the OCP in 2002, they then had to ask the territory for the staking ban, said city planning manager Mike Gau.

RELATED:View map of prohibited areas in Whitehorse.

“(The territory) came back with suggested maps and worked with us to see what an option might be, in terms of partial and temporary,” said Gau. “There’s two acts at play. It’s tough. It’s a juggling act.”

On July 19, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers said it was his department that initiated discussions for the five-year ban covering about 74 per cent of the area of Whitehorse.

Ultimately, the decision was the territory’s to make.

Not only is it in charge of the quartz mining laws but, by also being in charge of the Municipal Act, it gets to decide how much strength the city – and its OCP – has.

But the city isn’t upset with the territory’s decision.

“We’ve completed one of the requests in the Official Community Plan, so that’s a good thing,” said Gau. “That was one of the objectives and policies that the public asked for. Definitely we think it’s a good start.”

The territory’s Opposition agrees that the ban is better than nothing but is unhappy about where the 26 per cent of land still open to staking is in the city.

The land left open lies in two parcels on the west side of the city. The first parcel stretches from southwest of MacPherson to northwest of Fish Lake Road. The second is from west of Canyon Crescent to west of Wolf Creek, and includes the old Whitehorse Copper mine and the Mount Sima subdivision, which is now the only current residential area left unprotected from staking in the city.

But the majority of that area was designated as green space in the OCP, the territory’s New Democrats said in a release following Cathers’ announcement last week.

That is true, but staking isn’t that big of a concern, said Gau.

“Just the staking part of it is very low-level exploration, so very minimal in terms of machinery and disturbance,” he said.

There are 473 claims already staked within the city.

Rights to those claims will not be affected by the ban and there have been very few problems with those, said Gau.

The main motivation for this ban was to keep mineral interests away from developed areas, like homes and neighbourhoods.

The land left open to staking is along the inside edge of the city’s limits, away from most residential properties, said Gau.

And if a miner ever decides he wants to try and develop a mine from any staked claims, he will still have to argue his case to city council and get their approval to change the OCP, said Gau.

Any designation can be argued and changed – not just green space, he added.

Plus, despite the fact that most of the current 473 claims staked in Whitehorse are located within the land now protected by the staking ban, there have been a lot of leads for mining on the west side of the city, where staking can still occur, said Gau.

“This is trying to take advantage of all that investment already in the ground,” he said of the Whitehorse Copper Haul Road area. “And the city is not totally against mining in the city – it’s great for tax revenue.”

Both the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council were consulted before the ban was put in place and neither raised any concerns about it or where it would be in effect.

There are two parcels of land owned by Kwanlin Dun on the west side of the city, abutting the areas still left open to staking.

Those two lots are “category A” lands, meaning the First Nation owns the surface and subsurface rights to them.

Any possible use of those lands, for mining or otherwise, is entirely the decision of the First Nation.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com