The line between water and mineral

The Yukon Territorial Water Board should not concern itself with mining specifics when reviewing projects for licensing, according to Carmacks Copper Ltd.

The Yukon Territorial Water Board should not concern itself with mining specifics when reviewing projects for licensing, according to Carmacks Copper Ltd.

The mining company is in Yukon Supreme Court challenging the water board’s decision to deny it a licence.

That’s landed the board, the Yukon government, the Little Salmon/Carmacks and Selkirk First Nations and the Yukon Conservation Society in court.

The legal challenge involves a lot of paper. For the last four days, the reams of documentary evidence have been painstakingly reviewed on a large television screen and five computer monitors placed before the seven lawyers arguing the case.

“There are two issues here. There are the mining issues and the water issues,” said Brad Armstrong, Carmacks Copper’s lawyer. “The mining issues are for the other ministry – and they’ve already dealt with this.

“Where’s the division between the mining facilities and the water facilities? And that’s really what the case is about. Which regulator deals with which aspect of the project?”

The proposed mine is 30 kilometres downstream from Carmacks. When it came before the water board in February and March, the project had been given the green light by the Yukon government and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

Because of that, the water board should not have concerned itself with the project’s heap-leach technology, which proposes dousing mounds of raw rock with cyanide to leach out the copper.

However, the assessment board was uncertain of the heap-leach technology, said Arthur Pape, the First Nation’s lawyer.

The board ordered a field-scale trial. However, the water board’s decision notes the testing wouldn’t occur until three or four layers of full-scale heap for the mine would have been in operation, said Pape.

“This is a very unusual case,” he said. “It’s very unusual for a water board to not grant a licence at all. Usually they’re trying to find terms and conditions that will do their best to make sure everything will be OK. But here they said the problems are so serious, we’re not going to issue a licence.

“The company came to the court and said, ‘Ignore all that. It’s none of the water board’s business.’ And we said, ‘That’s crazy. This is exactly what the water board’s supposed to do.’ If this mine turns out not to work the way it’s supposed to, there’s going to be very serious pollution problems for water, and that’s why the water board refused to give it a license and that’s what the water board’s supposed to do.”

The court case has implications beyond Carmacks Copper, said Laurie Henderson, the Yukon government’s lawyer.

Depending on what Justice Ronald Veale decides, the authority environmental assessments have and who is authorized to enact them could be changed.

“As long as it’s acting within its statutory authority, it has discretion to decide whether a water licence will or will not be issued,” said Laurie Henderson of the water board.

The Yukon government has not taken any position on the board’s decision or the company’s orders, she said.

Veale adjourned Thursday, stating he would issue his decision in due time.

Many of the seven lawyers who were arguing the case do not expect it until the new year.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read