Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for December 23, 2013

Pivotal deadline will be met: cabinet spokeswoman

The Yukon government is still working to meet the Dec. 27 court-ordered deadline to amend mining regulations, says a territorial cabinet spokeswoman.

By Chuck Tobin on December 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm

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Photo submitted

ROSS RIVER AREA – New mining legislation and regulations adopted Thursday by the Yukon government now apply only to the Ross River area. The legislation, however, does include a mechanism to designate other areas in the Yukon where the new regulations will apply. Inset Elaine Schiman Map courtesy YUKON GOVERNMENT

The Yukon government is still working to meet the Dec. 27 court-ordered deadline to amend mining regulations, says a territorial cabinet spokeswoman.

Elaine Schiman said this morning the government will meet the deadline, and will make an announcement when the work is complete.

The Court of Appeal ruled last Dec. 27 that the government has a duty to consult with the Ross River Dena Council before allowing any staking of mineral claims within Ross River’s traditional territory. It also ruled there was a duty to consult Ross River before any exploration work occurred on those mineral claims.

The court found that allowing staking or exploration activity could potentially affect the aboriginal rights and title of the Ross River Dena Council, and therefore consultation was required. It gave the Yukon one year to comply.

Territorial legislation passed last Thursday establishes the foundation for the changes required.

It allows the cabinet to designate areas where it can apply the new regulations to comply with the court order.

The Ross River area has already been designated by cabinet through an order-in-council.

The designation means consultation is required before claims are staked, and before any exploration work is allowed.

New regulations implemented with the passing of new legislation last Thursday sets out a new process to review and consult Ross River with regards to work that is planned.

There has been no announcement yet regarding how to fulfill the duty to consult even before staking a claim, but Schiman insisted the government will make Friday’s deadline.

The amendments apply to both the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act.

Outside the Ross River area, it’s business as usual, according to the new legislation.

Only the lowest level of exploration activity is affected, as the more advanced exploration programs already require a public review process by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Neither the Ross River Dena Council nor the Yukon Chamber of Mines were available for comment this morning.

“With these amendments to our mining acts and regulations, the Yukon government has met the declaration of the Yukon Court of Appeal regarding Class 1 exploration activities in the Ross River area,” Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Scott Kent said in a press release Friday.

“We believe this will improve communication among the mining industry, First Nations and government.

“Improved communication and management of land results in better outcomes for everyone involved.”

The Ross River Dena Council is one of three Yukon First Nations without an aboriginal land claim treaty, along with the Liard First Nation of Watson Lake and the White River First Nation of Beaver Creek.

Legal authorities inside and outside government have suggested the Yukon Court of Appeal ruling will almost certainly affect the unsurrendered rights and title for the Liard and White River First Nations.

Last December’s ruling sent a shock-wave through the mining industry.

The industry said forcing companies to indicate where they were going to spend their money staking mineral claims would turn the free-entry system on its head by removing the confidentiality
required to protect their interests.

Industry also said having to consult on the lowest level of exploration work would be time-consuming, costly and a deterrent to new investment in the search for new ore bodies and potential mines.

The Yukon government asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal on the requirement to consult before staking a mineral claim. The highest court turned down the request on Sept. 19, thereby upholding the Yukon Court of Appeal decision.

The government, on the other hand, accepted the finding that there was a duty to consult before any exploration work was undertaken.

It announced last June it would be developing new regulations to comply, regulations that would apply to the entire Yukon, and not just the Ross River area.

Government spokeswoman Bryony McIntyre explained this morning it was decided following public input to apply the new regulations just to the Ross River area in the beginning, with a mechanism to add other areas later.

Under the new legislation, the territorial cabinet now has the vehicle to designate other areas where the new regulations would apply, the director of mineral policy and development pointed out.

McIntyre said under the new regulations, owners of mineral claims must notify the chief of mining land use before any work is
undertaken. The chief must then notify Ross River, or other First
Nations in the future, she said.

McIntyre explained once the notification is received from the claim owner, the government and First Nation will initially have 25 days to consult on the proposed activity, or longer if the chief of mining land use feels it is necessary.

If a company, for instance, holds 1,000 mineral claims and is planning to do work on 100 claims, Ross River must be consulted.

If the company decides late it wants to expand the exploration work beyond the 100 claims, a new consultation process would be required, she said.

McIntyre said the new regulations apply to all mineral claims in the Ross River area, no matter how old the claims area. There are 40,806 active claims in the area, she said.

The government, she explained, will continue consulting with the various parties to establish a new threshold of activity that would not require notification or consultation.

Currently – outside the Ross River area as of Thursday – the owners of mineral claims can conduct a range of exploration work without a permit, and without telling a sole.

They can cut a trail, cut up to eight clearings per claim, dig trenches, build camps, use explosives….

The industry has said there needs to be a new threshold established that allows some low-level of activity that does not require notification or consultation.

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