Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on April 1. The Yukon government is suspending the requirement for miners to do work on their claims in order to keep them valid for the 2020 season, said Pillai in an emailed statement on April 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon mining claim holders getting relief from assessment for 2020 season

People with mining claims will not have to do work on their claims for the 2020 season

The Yukon government is suspending the requirement for miners to do work on their claims in order to keep them valid for the 2020 season.

It’s a decision a miner from Ontario with claims in the McQuesten area, which straddles the Mayo and Dawson districts, says is a huge relief.

In an emailed statement April 24, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai said the Yukon government “understands and appreciates the challenging circumstances that many claimholders currently find themselves in, especially in light of current travel restrictions.”

“In consideration of this, we are providing relief from assessment for mining claimholders for the 2020 season,” the statement said.

“This has been discussed with the Business Advisory Council and was requested by the Yukon Chamber of Mines. Our government continues to evaluate ways that we can support Yukon’s mineral sector as we respond to COVID-19 and will ensure mining recorders have up to date information to share with claimholders.”

Hector Renaud, a miner who lives in Marathon, Ont., said the decision was “excellent” news.

“It’s better than the alternative, it’s a lot safer for everybody,” he said.

Renaud, who used to live in Dawson City, holds 86 claims that were set to expire on July 21.

Normally, miners are required to do at least $200 worth of work per claim per year in order to keep the claims in good standing.

Speaking to the News before Pillai’s announcement, Renaud said that he was faced with an unfair situation — head to the Yukon in the midst of a pandemic to work on his claims, defying recommendations across several jurisdictions to not travel, or lose them altogether.

“If I was still living in Dawson, hell, I’d just drive down the road, wouldn’t be an issue, but logistically, that’s just not what’s happening this year,” he said.

Renaud said he’d poured years of time and money into getting the paperwork and permits ready for his claims and couldn’t afford to just lose them.

However, getting to the Yukon with his crew wouldn’t have been easy either and would have required him driving through three provinces, all of which have various restrictions in place on who’s allowed in and how many people are allowed in a single vehicle.

“Well, can you imagine what it would be like having three guys in a pickup that has an Ontario plate in the back?” he said. “That’s like throwing a red flag out and asking every cop to pull you over, you know?”

Flying into the Yukon instead wasn’t an option “because right now, it’s hard trying to fly carrying an excavator,” he said.

Renaud would have also spent more time in self-isolation than actually working his claims — he estimated he needed to do about 21 days of work, but would have had to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in the Yukon and another 14 after returning to Ontario.

More than anything though, Renaud said he didn’t “want to bring any type of potential issues into the Yukon and into the First Nations territories.” He noted that Chief Simon Mervyn of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, on whose traditional territory Renaud’s claims sit, had asked for mining activity to stop in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that Premier Sandy Silver had also called for people to not travel to the communities.

Having relief from the assessment requirements for this season, Renaud said, was a huge load off his shoulders.

“In a manner of speaking, I think it’s about time they caught up to the rest of the country,” he said, referring to other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, that have suspended claim-working requirements.

“Let’s put it to you this way — the gold has been there for millennia. It’s going to be there next year.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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