Whitehorse Daily Star

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CAREFUL PLANNING REQUIRED – With major growth anticipated in the mining and exploration industries, says Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai, the territory must be ready to provide enough skilled workers and the housing needed to shelter them.

Economy will ‘hop right through the Yukon’

The Yukon’s mining and mineral exploration industry is going to get busy – very busy, says Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai.

By Chuck Tobin on January 29, 2018

The Yukon’s mining and mineral exploration industry is going to get busy – very busy, says Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai.

Pillai said in an interview Friday the anticipated upswing is focusing the spotlight on the territory’s capacity to handle it, from housing to the availability of a skilled labour force.

Expenditures on mineral exploration are looking to be noticeably higher this coming season than last year, said the minister. He spoke to the Star after returning from last week’s annual Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver.

He said there are companies which are coming in with significant exploration budgets.

They’re not just budgets of hundreds of thousands to a couple of million, but are budgets in the $5-million to $10-million range, he said.

“What stood out for me was the potential size of the expenditures on exploration, he said.

Pillai noted the development of new mines is already underway, with Victoria Gold beginning to spend millions of dollars to bring its Eagle Gold Project north of Mayo into production.

Then there’s Alexco Resource Corp.’s initiative to restart mining operations in its Keno Hill Silver District, and Goldcorp advancing its Coffee Gold Project, he acknowledged.

Pillai said he thinks the quiet sleeper in all these development projects is BMC Minerals and its Kudz Ze Kayak open pit project southeast of Ross River, which is now before the assessment board for review.

“We are getting into a strong cycle from an economic standpoint,” the minister said. “We are already there.... The economy is going to hop right through the Yukon.”

Pillai said the forecast for a busier time ahead requires attention to detail, including the impact government spending on capital projects will have on the anticipated drain of the workforce.

Drilling companies are concerned about the availability of skilled labour, he said.

Moving into the next phase of the Whistle Bend subdivision development will require an estimated 240 workers alone, Pillai said, but additional housing will be needed.

Developments such as the recently announced Mah’s Point Two condo building on Second Avenue will provide options for families looking to downsize, thus springing loose more housing stock for the market, he pointed out.

Pillai said announcements of similar projects to Mah’s Point are coming down the pipe – soon.

“Housing is a concern, and I have no problem saying that,” he said.

“We need everybody pulling and paddling in the same direction when it comes to housing.”

The minister noted the Kwanlin Dün First Nation has a really strong housing plan.

As well, the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council is interested in building more multi-residential apartments, similar to the three it constructed in the Whistle Bend subdivision.

More growth means increased demand on medical services and classrooms – and his cabinet colleagues are well aware of that, Pillai said.

“That is what we think about here, everyday and all night long.”

He said the future looks busy with the projects on the immediate horizon, never mind the potential in the Selwyn Basin along the border of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, north of the former Cantung tungsten mine.

More than 50 billion pounds of zinc have already been identified in the basin, which remains largely unexplored, Pillai pointed out.

(Zinc was trading this morning for $1.63 US a pound, or the highest in decades but for a brief spike in 2007-08.)

The inventory of copper in the territory, he said, has risen by seven billion pounds in the last decade.

In addition to the exploration and mine development, there’s the Roads to Resources project and the nearly $500 million already committed to improve access for the exploration and mining sector, he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Whitehorse in early September 2017 to make the federal funding announcement.

Pillai pointed out the territory has had the lowest unemployment rate in the country for the last six months.

“Our largest concern is capacity,” he said of what he expects the future to bring. “We really have to focus on capacity-building.”

The government, he said, has to figure out how to work with all the partners and players, such as the Centre for Innovation in Mining, to address the anticipated upswing.

Pillai said the mounting interest in the territory is partly due to what industry is seeing as a stronger relationship between his Liberal government and the territory’s First Nations.

When the Liberals were elected in October 2016, the Yukon was coming out of a period of legal challenges and animosity between the former Yukon Party government and First Nations, he said.

Pillai said his government and the First Nations are putting in the work to build their relationship and confidence in the territory.

Representatives of a number of Yukon businesses stopped him at the airport last week to thank him for the new approach, he said.

Pillai said they know strong government-to-government relationships are key to building on the economy, “and they know it was the right thing to do.”

Comments (14)

Up 2 Down 0

Wirter on Feb 2, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Whom ever you are. I was senior business adviser and was part of the process. I meet a lot of the mining companies. The facts speak for themselves. Tell Yukoners what this Yukon government has done but close the Peel, close out oil and gas, going into debt, etc.

Up 1 Down 0

Calf Wirter on Feb 1, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Wilf pretty low to try and claim responsibility for other people's work, whatever credibility you had left it's gone

Up 4 Down 1

ProScience Greenie on Jan 31, 2018 at 2:32 pm

Understand your bitter/jaded feeling obtained by wearing out a few pairs of boots/muckers doing that BnR. Have an old box in a shed filled with that type of footwear. A piece of paper on wall to. Perhaps we crossed paths other places than here. No time here to get into solutions. That's best left to discuss in the evening in the kitchen tent but will put on thinking cap re: your points below for future discussion.

See that we now have a few majors that know how to play the long game working up here. That could be a good thing. EMR needs to learn to play that long game. Time will tell if they do.

Also, for once EMR needs to develop a good BS/snake oil detection system. Especially with juniors. That said we do have a few juniors with solid reps that do good work up here thankfully.

Not sure how much of that Pillai talk is real kool aide speak and how much is the Libs knowing that to get elected next time that they need to take a good chunk of the pro-resource vote away from the YP.

Corporate welfare disgusts me and it's across the board in every industry. Demonstrates that we do not have any political parties with even a hint of a fiscal conservative streak. All the industry associations and chambers of this or that are like crack addicts hooked on the taxpayer's gravy train. That needs to end.

Up 3 Down 2

Dave Evans on Jan 31, 2018 at 2:14 pm

If it means leaving the goods in the ground, if for no other reason than future consideration, then let's hop on through.
Maybe one day we'll actually "need" the resources rather than the current mode of exploitation to stuff fat pockets. It would be nice if they were still there.

Up 1 Down 1

Bob Ablanalp on Jan 31, 2018 at 11:03 am

BOOM - BUST - BOOM - BUST - BOOM - BUST - ......

Newish government - same old song
Will the Yukon ever have politicians who understand long term economic planning ?

Up 3 Down 1

BnR on Jan 31, 2018 at 6:58 am

Pro science greenie, ok, I'll bite.
Here's a question for ya, how many mines have you worked in or at? No, I'm not trying to be snarky. How many? Have you worked in the industry at all?
I have. In various capacities. For most of the '80s and '90s. Hell, I almost finished a degree in geology. And let me tell you, I've heard it all before.
The mining industry is built on optimism. The same salesman methodology thrives at the CEO level. At the nuts and bolts level, it's all hard work and time in the field, but that's not what happens at roundup. It's like a car salesman gathering.
So to hear another EMR minister returning from YVR after roundup with more prognostications of boom times just ahead, well, I've heard that before.
I like the industry. When times were good, I did very well, but as to your comment on how do we get past the boom, well, what are YOU advocating? Subsidizing commodity prices? Free power? Let the gov build all their infrastructure? If the mine can't stand on its own, it's not viable, and no amount of concessions from the gov will make it otherwise, it's just more money in the company's pockets.
Of course mining company's want the Yukon to increase capacity. That just makes sense. For them. Having a ready labor pool to draw from means you don't have to fly them in from Vancouver Island or anywhere else. But when the mine or camp shuts down? Then the Yukon has unemployed, which isn't so good for US.
All I'm saying is take it all with a giant grain of salt, and young men, get a trade or degree that doesn't make you beholden to the industry. PSG, want to know the happiest day in a field geologists life? The day they get on with the GSC or YGS.

Up 7 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jan 30, 2018 at 3:15 pm

“Hop right through the Yukon”? I understand the Economic Development Minister is fairly new to his job, but I hope one of his staff informs him that the job is to prevent the economy, and lacking an adjective – I’ll insert positive - from “hopping right through the Yukon.” Rather, it’s about finding innovative and affordable ways to have the positive economy linger so that we may savour its many benefits.

Oh I also wish he and his cohort better luck dealing with the green crusaders and their agendas.

Up 6 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on Jan 30, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Almost all enviros and the far left are big time anti jc but fortunately, not all FNs.
If you care about the environment 'Seen this before' and about wasted money and energy (think unwanted C02 emissions) then you would be asking some hard questions as to why the Faro and other cleanups cost so darn much. Hint - think gravy train.

Besides government, our economy is based pretty much only on big box stores and burger joints BNR - either you luck out and get a govie job or you eek out a living barely above minimum wage. A stable well planned mining industry could be good for us. You're smart, help with some ideas to get rid of the boom/bust without leaving just the bust part.

While just a humble nobody, for whatever reason I know a lot of the corporate/gov players in mining and shared many a mug of kool-aid but never have I heard them mention your name Wilf. Time to step out of the game unless they come knocking at your door.

Jury still out on the Libs but seems like they're not doing too much damage on this file. So far not bad.

One thing - if they ever try to hook us up to the BC grid it would be a major mistake in so many ways. Let Outside deal with their own greedy energy use and pollution on their own. Just don't do it.

Up 8 Down 4

BnR on Jan 30, 2018 at 6:41 am

Someone took a healthy swig of Roundup KoolAid.....
So, we have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and Ranj is speaking about building capacity for the upcoming boom. If there are people not working right now, they aren't going to magically become motivated to work at any time. This means more people moving here to work in a boom/bust industry. Like I said, Roundup KoolAid. A heady brew.

Up 9 Down 1

jc on Jan 29, 2018 at 8:59 pm

Sounds exciting and heard it many times over the years, but FN and Environuts have other plans. They will shut down the territory and the Feds and courts will help them. No more optimism for this guy.

Up 4 Down 2

Woodcutter on Jan 29, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Oh look and it's not even a yukon government. So much for the doom and gloom.

Up 4 Down 8

Seen this before on Jan 29, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Half a billion for roads for the mining industry 'Roads to Resources - $500 million'. Over a billion being mulled to connect to the horrendously destructive Site C Dam in BC, again for the mining industry ($1.7 billion?). A hundred million to build a transmission line for the almost sole use of Victoria Gold. Destruction to our environment, toxic waste, and who knows what will be left behind like Faro - multi hundred million dollar clean ups. And what is the value of what is being permanently removed? Who is that profit going to?

Boom bust boom bust boom bust. It's like a song up here. Like a giant walking over the land. Courtesy of the mining industry with all the social and financial upheaval and all the greedy carpet baggers who come up to get rich.

Look forward to even higher housing prices and rentals too. And more government spending to subsidize housing, picking a few developers, the usual suspects, to dump hundreds of thousands or millions into their pockets 'because it is needed' for the mining industry to come up here with all their reckless activities.

Has anyone done a real cost benefit analysis to justify why we continue to subsidize mining and allow all this?!

Up 9 Down 1

Jacqueline R. Bazett on Jan 29, 2018 at 5:33 pm

In light of these positive predictions it is a pity the Federal dollars announced for First Nation housing is not accessible to those "off reserve". That cuts out most of those north of 60.

Up 9 Down 1

Wilf Carter on Jan 29, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Ranj, your piece was great, until you went into a negative approach, about taking down the last government, which killed your credibility. None of this growth is contributed to the liberal governments work but what the last government put in place, to take advantage, when mineral prices on the world market came back. Had O% to do with this government.
A lot of the stuff you talked about is important but show Yukoners and mining industry your government plan to support our economy with a lot of less funds cut by the Federal Government.
Going into debt is not an option.
Don't forget the impact of all the next taxes on the economy and what higher taxes has done in the past to the Yukon economy under the last Trudeau and other liberal Prime Ministers. Our economy went south, people left. Just look at the history to see it.
So don't pound your chest because as I said all the work to put in place was by the last government. I know because I was one who worked with the mining companies along with a lot of other great Yukon Government staffers.
Why does this government never thank staffers for doing the great work.
I really don't like this governments attitude, does any other Yukoner?

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