Minister of Energy Mines and Resources Ranj Pillai says the Liberal government will put an end to 15 requests for oil and gas rights in northern Yukon. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Territorial government cancels oil and gas disposition process in northern Yukon

Move comes after consultation with 3 First Nations, Pillai says

The territorial government has put an end to 15 requests to consider oil and gas rights in northern Yukon.

In July 2016 the Department of Energy Mines and Resources received the posting requests, all located in the Eagle Plain and Kandik Basins in northern Yukon.

Normally that would be the first step in the process towards exploration. After consulting with the First Nations and the general public, the Yukon government could have decided to proceed with competitive bids on all or only a portion of the requests.

Instead the Liberals have stopped the process after consulting with First Nations but before public consultation or any reports are done.

“Three northern Yukon First Nations — Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun — indicated that they did not support proceeding to a call for bids on the requested postings at this time,” Minister of Energy Mines and Resources Ranj Pillai told the legislative assembly Nov. 23.

Pillai said the territorial government was discontinuing the process and taking more time to consult with the First Nations.

Last election the Liberals promised to support “oil and gas development (not including hydraulic fracturing) on Eagle Plains, in collaboration with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.”

Pillai denied the government was breaking an election promise by cancelling these plans. At the same time he couldn’t tell reporters when the area would be put back out for consideration. That won’t happen until after he talks to the First Nations, he said.

“It’ll be a partnership moving forward between Yukon government and affected First Nations if there’s going to be oil and gas development.”

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Bruce Charlie said some of the areas that were being talked about are habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd. Others were on the head waters of rivers in that area.

There needs to be more consultation “to tell us exactly what kind of work would go on,” he said. “The habitat of the caribou is very important, the headwaters are very important. If anything happened up there in the headwaters, it affects everything downstream.”

Charlie said the Yukon government has agreed to an intergovernmental forum that “would include technical and political representation to address north Yukon oil and gas issues.” No date for that forum has been set.

Pillai said he hopes a deal can be worked out similar to the MOU the government signed with First Nations over mineral rights.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation Chief Roberta Joseph said she is also pleased with the government’s decision to stop the process.

She said “there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done” to clarify fees and create a clear communications strategy between the Yukon and First Nations governments.

“Hopefully this time will allow us to be able to do that,” she said, adding that companies that apply for permits need to be in good standing.

Of the 15 requests, two were for the Eagle Plain Basin and the rest were for the Kandik Basin.

The Kandik Basin straddles the Yukon-Alaska border northwest of Dawson City, and extends east toward the western boundary of the Eagle Plain Basin.

Posting requests can be submitted to the government twice a year, in the spring and fall. Prior to these 15, there had been none since the spring of 2013, Yukon government officials said earlier this year.

Pillai said ther government received no requests in 2017.

Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent told the legislative assembly his party was disappointed with the decision.

“This is worrisome because it could potentially spell the end of this industry here in the Yukon — one that has a long history of exploration and production with significant revenues flowing not only to the Yukon government, but First Nation governments as well,” he said.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson said she was pleased with the decision.

“The ‘pause’ button that the government has pushed on the oil and gas posting process is an opportune time for this government to do a reality-based assessment with respect to Yukon’s continued involvement in an industry that cannot, does not, survive without significant subsidies,” she said.

The department has never said which companies asked to have a look. Pillai said the 15 requests came from “minimal companies.”

Right now there is only one working in the area, he told the legislative assembly.

The company formerly known as Northern Cross filed a lawsuit against the Yukon government for up to $2.2 billion over its decision not to allow hydraulic fracturing.

The company claims the government effectively cancelled its oil and gas exploration permits in the Eagle Plain Basin and wants to be compensated.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dunoil and gasTr’ondëk Hwëch’in First NationVuntut Gwitchin First NationYukon politics

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

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read