Along with extending the ban on staking mineral claims in Kaska traditional territory, the government has extended the relief on collecting fees for existing claims, says the minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Ranj Pillai told Yukon Party critic Scott Kent on Monday that extending the moratorium on staking is needed to provide time for the Yukon government and First Nations to figure out a new system for staking claims.
Pillai confirmed Monday the government has also extended the moratorium on the requirement for companies and individuals to pay annual fees or do a certain amount of work on their claims every year to keep them in good standing.
There’s been general acceptance that if there are moratoria on staking that might cause uncertainty and affect the ability of companies to raise money for exploration work, it would be unfair to continue charging them annual fees.
The moratorium on staking and the requirement for annual fees for assessment work have been in effect in the Peel River watershed for several years.
The Ross River Dena Council flipped over the apple cart in 2012, when it challenged the Yukon government’s authority to allow mineral staking in Ross River’s traditional territory without first consulting with Ross River.
The Yukon Court of Appeal ruled the government must consult before allowing staking, and before allowing any exploration work.
In its decision, it found that any potential impact on aboriginal rights and title had to be addressed prior to staking claims.
In its argument, Ross River pointed out a company could stake a claim without telling anybody but the mining recorder.
Under the lowest level of exploration, the company could then dig holes and trenches, establish camps, cut trails and clearings for helicopter pads and use a limited amount of explosives, without any permits, and without telling anybody.
The appeal court’s ruling led to amendments to both the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act.
It’s been more than three years since the Court of Appeal’s order came into effect in December 2013.
The Ross River Dena Council and the Yukon government have not found a satisfactory solution to fulfill the duty to consult.
The ban on staking was expanded last February to the entire Kaska traditional territory south of the Ross River area, down to the Yukon-B.C. border, as a result of legal action filed in 2014 by the Kaska Dena Council.
The Dena Council launched the court action on the same grounds as Ross River.
The Yukon government conceded in 2015, but a staking ban was not put in place as the parties sought a resolution.
The 90-day ban implemented in February to cover the entire Kaska territory was extended April 28 to April 30, 2018.
The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in of Dawson City has also challenged the government’s authority to record mineral claims and allow low-level exploration activity without first consulting the First Nation.
The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have also agreed to hold off advancing their legal action while they attempt to reach an agreement on how the government will fulfill its duty to consult.