The Yukon government has extended the moratorium on mineral staking in the Peel watershed by three months to April 2020, with the goal of giving governments more time to implement the land use plan and the mining industry to adapt to it.
The government made the announcement in a press release in the late afternoon on Dec. 12, shortly after the decision was made.
The moratorium on staking in integrated management areas, which account for approximately 17 per cent of the Peel watershed, was originally scheduled to be lifted on Jan. 1.
Integrated management areas are the only areas within the Peel where mineral exploration will be possible; the remaining 83 per cent of the more than 67,000-square-kilometre region has been set aside for conservation purposes.
That moratorium will now be lifted on April 1.
Jerome McIntyre, the director of land planning with the Yukon government’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, explained in a Dec. 13 interview that the Jan. 1 date was picked before the plan was actually finalized.
Following finalization, an implementation committee was created, McIntyre said, and one of the first points raised was the need to develop guidelines ensuring industry would understand how exploration in the Peel would work.
“There’s normal regulatory things in place that dictate how development would occur but then you’ve got that added layer of the plan,” he said.
Implementation work has been ongoing, he said, but it became apparent that the Jan. 1 deadline would not be realistic and the committee recommended pushing the date back.
The three-month extension will give the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan’s signatories — Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Yukon government — more time to figure out how the plan’s parameters will impact industry, and then offer education to parties interested in exploration.
The Peel plan was finalized in August 2019 following years of legal battles between the Yukon government, First Nations whose traditional territories overlap with the watershed and environmental conservation groups.
McIntyre said a further extension is not anticipated.
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