Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 4, 2014

Change the plan, Peel claims holder asks YTG

The president and CEO of Tarsis Resources wants the Yukon government to make adjustments to its Peel land use plan.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on February 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Bob Holmes

The president and CEO of Tarsis Resources wants the Yukon government to make adjustments to its Peel land use plan.

Tarsis holds 90 claims along Goz Creek in the southeast portion of the Peel planning region. Under the government’s plan, released last month, the claims now lie in a protected area.

While the Yukon government has grandfathered-in existing claims and permitted them to be developed, Marc Blythe argues that the plan has, in essence, creatively expropriated Tarsis’ claims.

“We’re not exactly happy with how it turned out; to have a protected area all around us certainly restricts our ability to work on those claims going forward,” he said Monday from Vancouver, where the company is based.

“Trying to put some sort of access through a restricted area is going to be very, very difficult to permit; there’ll be certainly a lot of opposition, I would imagine, from environmental groups,” Blythe added.

“Once people see a protected area, regardless of how kind of squirly the definition is, people assume that protected area means protected area,” he said.

He fears the company would have difficulty securing the social licence it would need to develop a mine in a protected area.

Two First Nations and two environmental organizations have challenged the government’s land use plan in Yukon Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs want the court to overturn the plan and implement the Peel planning commission’s final recommended plan. That plan would uphold a higher level of protection in the Peel and restrict road access in protected areas, essentially quashing potential development of any mines in those areas.

During last week’s announcement of the Peel suit in Vancouver, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Eddie Taylor said “we do not want to see mining in the Peel watershed. To us, that land and water is sacred and should be preserved for generations.”

The position of the First Nations supports Blythe’s concerns that should Tarsis seek to develop a mine in the area, some level of public resistance is almost guaranteed.

As a publicly traded company, Blythe said, Tarsis could also face difficulties trying to raise funds from the public markets with the protected area status hanging over the project like a question mark.

Blythe wants the government to adjust the plan to create a buffer zone around the Goz Creek project, removing the protected status covering the claim.

If the plan isn’t adjusted, the company may seek compensation.

Bob Holmes, the director of the mineral resources branch in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (EMR), and Manon Moreau, the director of corporate policy and planning, said today the government has no intention of adjusting the Peel land use plan.

“Companies are going to be required to abide by that land use plan,” said Moreau, adding that Blythe’s concerns about social licence and his company’s ability to raise capital are “speculation” at this point.

Holmes noted there are other projects in Canada that have been developed in protected areas, including the Myra Falls zinc mine located in the Strathcona-Westmin Provincial Park in B.C.

While Holmes agreed the Goz Creek project would certainly be held to a high environmental standard and would likely be more in the public eye than a project located outside a protected area, the plan allows Tarsis to carry out exploration plans and ultimately to develop a mine.

Tarsis’ claims are in good standing, he noted, and Blythe holds a mining land use permit that’s valid until 2017.

“He has the right to do work and to develop those claims. If they get to a point where they require access, we’d look at access, so there is an ability to move this project forward accommodated in the plan,” Holmes said.

Tarsis’ claims have been held in good standing since 1973, Blythe noted, unlike some companies which may have staked claims in the hopes of securing compensation following the release of the government’s land use plan.

Over the years, more than $3 million worth of exploration work has been undertaken to define the mineral resource of the Goz Creek project.

Tarsis’ claims contain a high-grade zinc deposit, that Blythe said is three times the grade of the minerals found at Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd.’s Howard’s Pass project, which has been trumpeted as a world-class zinc deposit.

In 1976, it was estimated that the Goz Creek project contained about 650 millions pounds of zinc, but Blythe said there’s potential that there’s more.

Out of respect of the land use planning process, Blythe said, the company halted all work at the Goz Creek project in 2008.

Now, as the plan is being challenged in Yukon Supreme Court, Blythe said, the concerns of the First Nations need to be heard.

“The government needs to be supportive of the fact that the settlements are in place, and they need to honour the commitments made in the final agreements with those settled First Nations,” he said.

But the company wants to be treated fairly as well.

“We respect the government’s right to carry out land use planning and so on, and we plan to abide by the law. I guess the only thing is that if we feel we’re disadvantaged, we should be able to come and claim compensation for any loss,” said Blythe.

EMR Minister Scott Kent is in Ottawa and could not be reached for comment.

CommentsAdd a comment

D

Feb 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Minor quibble.

YTG isn’t a thing.  YG or Yukon Government has been the name of the government for several years now.

bobby bitman

Feb 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm

In fairness, at least these claims have been maintained in good standing for 40 years, and $3 million has been spent on them.  This guy is not a nuisance claimer staking just for the expropriation value.  I can understand his frustration.

The government is saying however that Tarsis can proceed with their exploration.

My next question would be whether Tarsis was the company that staked the land 40 years ago, and whether they actually paid $3 million into the claims, or whether they bought the claims recently and speculatively.  That is a possibility.  What do they themselves actually have into it?

Frank

Feb 4, 2014 at 6:16 pm

To be honest, I do not have sympathy for this company.
Mine it by helicopter if it’s legal to do so. If not, let the claims lapse and go stake claims somewhere where there is public support for doing so.

And think about how pristine the areas you stake are. If they have high public value they could become a protected area or park.

BnR

Feb 4, 2014 at 7:16 pm

I’d like to know how Tarsis plans to have an economically viable mine there, when Wolverine, which is much closer to tidewater, is hit and miss at best.
My guess is Tarsis hopes they get bought out, as they would ultimately make more money that way.

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