The Yukon Mineral Development Strategy panel has released 95 recommendations for long-term mineral management and increased First Nations industry involvement.
The Mineral Development Strategy Panel released its final report on April 15, after 16 months of consultation.
“This strategy attempts to balance competing needs so that exploration and mining can be done in a profitable manner that benefits all Yukoners,” the strategy’s preface says.
The panel urges the Yukon government to accept and consider First Nations’ perspectives and treaty rights. It suggests that until this happens, “misunderstandings and friction” will continue to undermine a much-needed overhaul of development regulations.
The panel’s strategy is divided into six strategic priorities.
Modernize the Yukon’s mineral resource management
The first priority calls for a modernization of the Yukon’s Quartz Mining Act and Placer Mining Act. It asks that the Yukon government work with First Nations and mineral industry representatives to implement new legislation by 2025.
“Achieving such an aggressive timeline will require all involved to declare the work a priority,” the strategy says.
It also calls for negotiations with First Nations to resolve mineral tenures and free entry staking on traditional territory.
The new mineral legislation should align with First Nation treaties and coincide with program funding and revenue-sharing to include First Nations in resource development, it says.
Ensure First Nations and communities profit from development
The Yukon government should undertake a review of the Yukon’s royalty rates, fee structures and tax exemptions, the second priority suggests.
The Yukon’s quartz royalty and fee regime should also be modified, and a profit-based placer gold royalty introduced. The strategy points out that placer and quartz royalty revenues currently collect a “negligible” average of $100,000 per year.
There should also be studies gauging a community’s interest in hosting mineral development, particularly in traditional territories.
Yukon First Nations should also receive financial returns from mining and exploration.
Establish transparent environmental assessments
The strategy accuses the Yukon’s assessment processes as lacking harmony, particularly because the Yukon Water Board and Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAB) are two different decision bodies in the process. It calls for the approval process from the two organizations to be streamlined.
It also asks for additional resources to monitor and inspect development following permitting. More financial support is also required to bring better technology to mine sites that can help reduce environmental impacts.
The strategy additionally calls for better engagement with Yukon First Nations beyond the permitting stage.
Create a competitive investment climate
The strategy suggests that a culture of uncertainty may be scaring investors away from the Yukon.
“In recent years, a number of legal and regulatory decisions have resulted in staking moratoriums and delays to Yukon exploration and development,” it says.
The strategy calls for completed land use planning and signed agreements with First Nations to quell that uncertainty.
There also needs to be more clearly defined rules depicting where roads can be built, to achieve certainty about access to mineral claims, the strategy continues.
Develop high environmental standards
The panel concedes that the mining industry has historically developed a poor reputation regarding environmental practices.
“Industry … needs to be held to high standards to overcome the negative aspects of the sector’s legacy,” the strategy says.
It recommends the implementation of quartz mine reclamation policies; a prospecting license requirement; First Nations involvement in environmental monitoring and the utilization of Yukon Energy as a resource for implementing renewable energy options.
It also asks for the requirement of better mine closure plans.
“Project proposals must show (plans) to return the mine site to conditions that are as close as possible to the pre-mining state,” it says.
Enable high-paying job opportunities
The creation of jobs is one of the mineral industry’s highest-value contributions, however, less than half of the industry’s workforce resides in the Yukon.
“Developing the Yukon workforce is critical” for circulating the benefits of mining within the local economy, the strategy says.
It calls for an education and communication strategy that would attract Yukoners to mining work. Examples include earth science education in public schools; a women in mining action plan and funding for Yukon University’s mining programming.
“Establishing the alignment of development interests among all Yukon people will make the Yukon a rare and unique jurisdiction in the world,” the strategy says.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org