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Samson Hartland

Excitement is hard to share, mines chamber says

Yukoners should pay close attention as land use planning goes forward in the future, says the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

By Chuck Tobin on December 4, 2017

Yukoners should pay close attention as land use planning goes forward in the future, says the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

With Friday’s Supreme Court of Canada decision, the amount of land unavailable to pursue mineral exploration in the territory is now up over 50 per cent, he pointed out.

Samson Hartland said today the mining industry is very competitive around the world, and investment dollars are already tight to come by.

The Yukon needs to be careful it doesn’t push itself out of that marketplace by closing the door on the industry, he suggested during an interview.

He said with several more regional land use plans still to be hashed out – Dawson City, Mayo, Whitehorse, Teslin – it’s certain there will be more land withdrawals.

Land withdrawals, Hartland said, are the number one concern for the mining sector, and the industry pays attention to them.

“The trajectory that we are on is highly disconcerting not only to our jurisdiction but in the eyes of PDAC (Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada) and MAC (Mining Association of Canada) when it comes to competitiveness,” he said.

“Land withdrawal is the number one challenge from the perspective of the mining industry today.”

Hartland said future regional planning must be evidence-based, using scientific, biological and socio-economic factors that include mineral potential.

“We want to make sure land withdrawals are based on sound evidence at the conclusion of a robust policy process,” he said.

“I think it is clear to say we have learned a lot of lessons through the Peel process that can be employed for future land use plans.”

Hartland said it’s hard to share in everybody’s excitement over Friday’s decision when you see the future of the mining industry slipping away in the territory.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision is sending the parties back to the planning table, to the point where the Yukon government conducts consultations on the final land use plan recommended by the Peel planning commission.

The final plan calls for 80 per cent wilderness protection across the 68,000 square kilometres that make up the Peel River watershed region, with no roads nor railways, and no surface access through the 80 per cent.

The court also ruled that at this stage of the process, rejection of the plan is no longer an option available to the Yukon government.

“Given that modifications are, by definition, minor or partial changes, Yukon cannot “modify” a Final Recommended Plan so significantly as to effectively reject it,” the high court ruled.

The entire Peel watershed represents 14 per cent of the Yukon’s total land mass. The area designated as wilderness protection represents 11 per cent of the Yukon.

Hartland said there is certainly a possibility of legal action from companies with legitimate mineral claims inside the area designated as wilderness protection, for what he described as de facto expropriation.

Companies, he said, spent significant time and money staking those claims for legitimate interests.

Hartland likened it to a business setting up shop on a city street, having purchased a business licence and having already hung out the business sign.

Then, suddenly, the city tells the business it’s closing the street to traffic and there will be no parking allowed, he said.

Hartland said it could be argued that providing wilderness protection with no surface access to most of the Peel amounts to expropriation of thousands of minerals claims.

For the First Nations and two environmental organizations which challenged the decision by the former Yukon Party government to throw out the final land use plan recommended by the planning commission, Friday’s decision was monumental.

It was met with joy and elation.

Premier Sandy Silver described the decision as a stepping-stone into a new future for the territory.

He said his government wants to get on with the final round of consultation wrapping up the land use plan as quickly as possible.

It’s his intent to meet with the affected First Nations to chart a course at the earliest time possible, he told a press conference Friday afternoon.

The Liberals committed to implementing the final land use plan as part of its election platform last year.

Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said it’s still important to conduct the final round of consultation because it’s been five years since the land use plan was recommended.

The Supreme Court has also instructed the parties to carry out the last round of consultation, she emphasized.

She pointed out the Umbrella Final Agreement requires that there be consultation on the final recommended plan.

After receiving the initial recommendation from the planning commission back in 2009, the former Yukon Party government was in a position to accept, reject or modify the plan before sending it back to the commission for a second look.

It recommended more thought be given to creating a greater balance between wilderness protection and future economic development opportunities, as well as suggesting more thought should be given to surface access.

There was, however, nothing specific.

After considering the government’s feedback on the initial recommendation, the planning commission returned the same land use plan in its final recommendation – 80 per cent wilderness protection, no surface access.

The government threw out the recommendation and replaced it with its own plan. That called for 29 per cent wilderness protection with 71 per cent remaining open to economic development interests.

It relied heavily, and argued in court, that it had the right to throw out the plan under the provision of the land claim agreements that allowed it to accept, reject or modify the commission’s initial and final recommended plan, as 97 per cent of the Peel was territorial Crown land.

“By ultimately making these changes to the Final Recommended Plan after failing to present them to the Commission in sufficient detail, Yukon thwarted the land use plan approval process,” says the decision by the high court.

The Supreme Court of the Yukon, the Yukon Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court of Canada all found the government’s decision to throw out the commission’s final recommendation was unbecoming.

The Supreme Court of the Yukon and the Court of Appeal came up with different remedies to correct the matter, which is how the case ended up in Ottawa for the Supreme Court of Canada to sort out.

“Yukon’s changes to the Final Recommended Plan did not respect the land use planning process in the Final Agreements and its conduct was not becoming of the honour of the Crown,” says the 39-page Supreme Court decision.

The Yukon Party released a statement Friday saying it now understands that mistakes were made during the planning process.

The government has said Yukon taxpayers have spent $449,000 on legal bills in the case.

See letter and commentary.

Comments (14)

Up 0 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Dec 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Mixed feelings on trapping Yukon Watchdog. I love my fur hats, parka trim, moccasins, mitts and love seeing fellow northerners wear it and that it supports local trappers. Like hunting to put food on the table up here, no issues with it. I support our local trappers, hunters, farmers and small scale loggers and placer miners.

Have a hard time seeing fancy fur coats and wraps being worn by the rich and famous down south where it's a warm climate. Would rather see those animals doing their thing out in the woods than that.

GHG/land use with local trapping is like local hunting, not a big deal. Flying from the other side of the planet to raft a river that regular folks could never ever afford to do or blowing away a big game animal for the trophy is kind of significant.

Up 0 Down 0

Yukon Watchdog on Dec 7, 2017 at 9:15 am

@ PSG Interested in your views on trapping for profit and how that affects the land, GHG footprint, etc.

Up 9 Down 2

My Opinion on Dec 5, 2017 at 8:32 pm

Again. I have said this many times. First Nations claim to be Sovereign nations which they are not. However if they are, then why can they vote for my representatives while I can not vote in their government. Then their government negotiates with mine, who they had a hand in selecting. How corrupt can this get.

Up 4 Down 0

20% of the Peel will never be mined on Dec 5, 2017 at 3:24 pm

But development is still open in the Peel.
This ruling does not protect any of the Peel from being developed.
As an individual that has being involved with land use planning, this is not a land use plan but a fight to control the land which belongs to all Yukoners and Canadians.
There were some major errors, in this case and ruling:
1 land use planning takes in fair consideration of all stakeholders, interest.
2 The land use plan can be done over again from a truthfully land use planning perspective.
3 This decision does not take in the rights of all Yukoners and Canadians.
4 Yukon Government can permit development in the Peel, in the future

Up 4 Down 6

BnR on Dec 5, 2017 at 1:26 pm

What else was former YP executive assistant Hartland going to say?
Gotta circle the wagons and defend the party line.

Up 6 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on Dec 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Call me old school but shooting an animal just so it's head can hang on a wall isn't exactly wise use of an ecosystem. (I'm all for local hunting to put food on the table)
Ecotourism has a large GHG footprint and other negative impacts. Not as big as resource extraction but big enough it cannot be ignored.

Up 4 Down 8

Hugh Mungus on Dec 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Consider a switch to decaf PCGreenie. There is still a lot of work to be done and decisions to be made.

I heard Sampson on CBC dancing around questions and giving evasive answers that were nothing more than word salads. He wouldn't even answer how many mining outfits had done exploration and may be poised to move on to the next phase.

The Chamber's vision is singular: mine. I'm not against mining in the Yukon but we have seen for decades that mines have failed in their reclamation or gone bankrupt after they've extracted all the resources. Royalty rates should be modernized before all the finite resources are gone.

There is nothing wrong with the Peel being a protected area or even a park especially given that it sits on settlement land.

Up 10 Down 1

Max Mack on Dec 5, 2017 at 7:41 am

The Supreme Court is wrong. The First Nations and the environmental groups would have taken the case to court if, as the courts argue, GY had given direction to the planning commission at the outset. And the SC would have again ruled against GY. Either way, GY loses and First Nations get to control the decision. This is NOT shared land-use planning.

Up 4 Down 3

Average Joe on Dec 5, 2017 at 6:33 am

I wonder if the mining companies have any say in what lands are considered for development or protection? Let's say that we get back to protection of 80% of the peel watershed but the 20% earmarked for development has no development potential. There is a lot of country along the Dempster highway I'm sure there is room for some development up there.

Also big game hunting and eco tourism have virtually no footprint on the land except a little more traffic on existing game trails. Presenting uneducated arguments does the entire discussion a disservice.

Up 6 Down 4

jc on Dec 4, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Conservatives build - Lieberals destroy. Goodbye Sandy Silver. Anyway, enjoy the next two years.

Up 7 Down 1

Not representative on Dec 4, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Does this mean that approx less than a 1000 people (Old Crow/Mayo/Dawson) as First Nations have decided to remove this land from use for the other approx 35,000 Yukoners - never mind the mining industry? As a non-native, I'm not sure I'm getting my 2 cents worth of opinion taken into account regarding this Yukon land area. I did respond to the Commission's questionnaire, apparently wasted my time. I also call BS on not being able to 'start-over', why not? Canada is spending $$ like fools, if there were process mistakes made, then do it again, this time RIGHT!
I aslo agree that hunting and tourism must also be excluded, (note I did not say regulated) from using the protected areas now too - fair is fair! It's a very special area and no one should go there - let the animals & eco system be, we can rename it NOGO - Yukon's Not-a-Park, human's are not welcome there!

Up 2 Down 6

YXY on Dec 4, 2017 at 5:17 pm

PSG, there is a difference between mining activity and canoe trips. No, really, there is.
With respect to big game outfitting. Widrig outfitters has operated for years in the area using only horses, and in a very sustainable manner.
Bonnet Plume outfitters on the other hand uses ATVs and jet boats almost exclusively. The impact Bonnet Plume has had on the area they operate in is extensive and can be easily observed from the air, so your argument has a lot of validity to it, at least with respect to outfitting. Widrig is owned an operated out of Mayo and Whitehorse, the owner of Bonnet Plume is Albertan, which figures.

Up 7 Down 3

Peter on Dec 4, 2017 at 4:59 pm

I am all for mining, mining has supported me and my family since before I finished University. In South America, where I have worked in mining for 20 years, they have learned that even if you have surface access, land, water, energy and all the other finite resources you could need to start a mine, you will never even start without community support. The Yukon Government should have known that this is the most finite and scarcest resource of them all. They should have known better. I am not excited either, because there ARE sustainable ways to extract and process mineral wealth. But I am happy for our First Nations communities to see justice served. Maybe they will trust government a bit more as a result, you need that even before you seek support.

Up 7 Down 1

ProScience Greenie on Dec 4, 2017 at 3:58 pm

If the ecosystem is so special why will unregulated ecotourism with it's wild west unrestricted for-profit mentality still be allowed in the Peel? Why will trophy hunters still be allowed to blast away at big game? Land use will not protect the Peel ecosystem. Only a park, that puts the health of the ecosystem before any and all human exploitation, can offer true protection.

If those two industries volunteered to stay out of the Peel they and the LUP process might regain a bit of credibility that this is actually about true protection, not profits.

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