A ban on staking mining claims in Kaska traditional territory outside Ross River has been extended to April 30, 2018, the Yukon government announced April 27.
The prohibition was originally set to expire April 30, 2017, which was itself a 90-day extension from the initial expiry date of January 31, 2017.
The ban was first enacted in July 2015, on the heels of a similar ban in the Ross River Dena territories. Both disputes centre around the government’s duty to consult the Ross River and Kaska Dena when considering mining claims.
In 2012, the Yukon Court of Appeal declared that the government has a duty to consult with the Ross River Dena before mining claims and exploration could begin. In 2014 the Kaska Dena filed to have the same declarations made for their asserted traditional territories.
The government implemented the extension because it needs more time to work with the Kaska, said Shari-Lynn MacLellan, a spokesperson for the Executive Council Office.
“This striking prohibition is in place so we can resolve the issues raised by the Kaska,” said MacLellan.
“We couldn’t come to an agreement — they had to extend,” said George Miller, chair of the Kaska Dena Council.
Miller declined to comment further until the dispute is resolved.
The extended ban prohibits any new claims from being laid in the area, but does not affect existing claims, said MacLellan. There are 6,711 active quartz mining claims held by 52 different claim holders and 26 placer mining claims in the affected area, MacLellan said. These claims can “continue to operate as per usual,” McLellan said.
The value of current or future claims is unknown since it’s up to the claim holders to determine their worth, said Sue Thomas, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
The outcome of the negotiations with the Kaska could have a big impact on Yukon’s mining industry, said Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Kaska territory in question makes up 23 per cent of the Yukon’s land mass, he said.
“We respect the process needed to resolve these issues,” Hartland said. “On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges to the mining industry is access to the land … which is becoming scarcer.”
Hartland said 52 per cent of land in the Yukon is off-limits to staking.
“This can change, based on the outcome (of negotiations),” he said. “You need to be able to discover new claims.”
MacLellan said the government will try to resolve the dispute before the 2018 extension expires.
“We will continue our discussions with the Kaska on this,” MacLellan said. “We are looking to come up with a solution that meets our interests, the interests of the Kaska and the interests of the mining industry.”
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