The Yukon Conservation Society says it has found more evidence that the existing mineral claims in the Peel are worthless.
A document filed with the Department of Mines appears to show that 112 claims located in the Hart River area of the Peel watershed were sold from Zinccorp Resources Ltd. to Strategic Metals Ltd. for the price of one dollar.
But a Whitehorse lawyer says that the form is simply a record of the transfer of assets, and companies are not required to list the actual selling price.
“There’s no requirement to put the actual value of the claims or the purchase price on the document,” said Graham Lang. “Most people just put a dollar.”
In the legal world, in order for a transfer of assets to be recognized there must be some consideration, or dollar value, to the transaction, said Lang. The form in question recognizes that the claims changed hands, but does not demand an accurate reflection of their value.
Even if it happened to be, in this case, that the true value of those properties was a dollar, it would be impossible to extrapolate that price to other claims in the region, said Lang.
The Yukon government has argued that protecting the Peel region from development would bankrupt the territory because it would be forced to pay out all the claim holders for their properties.
But the conservation society counters that the government has dramatically overestimated how much money would be required to buy out the claim holders.
The society commissioned a report by MiningWatch Canada last year, which largely supports their claims.
The report states, among other things, that the most the government should have to pay out is equal to what the companies have invested in the properties to date.
Many of the Peel properties have seen little investment because the government has suspended the requirement to develop claims while the future of the Peel is still in limbo.
But that argument will not necessarily hold water in court, said Lang.
“It would be the equivalent of saying, ‘I’m going to expropriate your house downtown, you paid $10,000 for that house 50 years ago, so here’s your $10,000, I’ll see you later.’”
The existing claims will have to be purchased by the government if the Peel is protected from development, said Lang. Ultimately, the price of those properties would be determined by a battle in court.
“Those types of negotiations are difficult because you’re trying to put a value on something you haven’t pulled out of the ground.”
Lang does not support one vision for the Peel over another, he said. He would just like to see greater understanding of the legal questions.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at firstname.lastname@example.org