The official Opposition is calling on the Yukon government to extend consultation on proposed changes to the Quartz Mining Act to the end of November.
The Yukon Party says extending the deadline for public comment to Nov. 30 would mean a workshop could be held at the annual Geoscience Forum in Whitehorse.
Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent said he hoped by then the government would have a draft to show to industry.
“That annual conference gets significant turnout so that would be the best opportunity to get the most comprehensive feedback on their proposed changes.”
The Yukon Party is amplifying concerns raised by the Yukon Chamber of Mines earlier this week. The chamber’s executive director, Samson Hartland, said proposed changes to the act could erode the Yukon’s free-entry system. Hartland said the chamber was also frustrated that the government was asking for comment but hadn’t provided a draft of the actual amendments it was proposing.
Under the proposed changes the Yukon government would have the option to give First Nations or their entities exclusive rights for prospecting and mining in land currently covered under interim staking bans. The changes are designed to promote reconciliation and create new opportunities for economic development, according to the government.
People are being asked to comment on the proposal by Aug. 21.
Yukon government officials say a draft of the proposed amendments doesn’t exist yet. They have so far refused to commit to doing a second round of consultations once the draft is written.
Briar Young, director of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources’s strategic alliances branch, said the government has no plans at this time to extend the August deadline.
“We’re holding a public consultation that closes right now on Aug. 21. Based on what we hear, we’ll prepare a ‘what we heard’ document and if it is determined at that time that further consultation is required we’ll embark upon that then.”
Kent said the Yukon Party has always been a supporter of the free-entry system and wouldn’t want changes to erode opportunities for prospectors and junior mining companies.
“I think our preference would be for the government to work with the First Nations to open up that land (currently covered under interim protection) to make it available for … staking under the free entry system so that anybody can have a chance to go in there and have an opportunity to acquire and register those mineral claims.”
He said the current consultation is happening in the middle of the Yukon’s mining season.
“I just don’t know if they’re going to get the feedback, and make an informed decision based on the feedback they get, with so many people busy trying to make a living at this time of year.”
No one from the cabinet office was immediately available to comment.
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