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ROAD PROPOSAL APPROVED – The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun and the Yukon government have agreed to allow the construction of an all-season, 65-kilometre road through wilderness north of Keno City. The route is shown above Keno City.

Mining access road receives clearance

The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun and the Yukon government have agreed to allow the construction of a new 65-kilometre access road through wilderness north of Keno City.

By Chuck Tobin on March 5, 2018

The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun and the Yukon government have agreed to allow the construction of a new 65-kilometre access road through wilderness north of Keno City.

The controversial proposal has been under consideration by the two governments for 10 months, following last May’s recommendation for approval from the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board’s (YESAB’s) office in Mayo.

Measures to control and monitor access to the road – including a guard house – shall be agreed to by Na-Cho Nyäk Dun and the Yukon government prior to construction, says the decision document issued Friday.

It also says an ongoing program will be conducted to measure any impact on the wildlife populations, particularly in relation to moose and moose habitat.

“This audit shall compare changes over a longer time span, from prior to project initiation until at least five years after road completion,” says the decision document.

A Yukon government press release issued at noon today says in addition to the requirement for an access management plan before construction begins, there will also need to be a land use management plan completed for that area of the Stewart River watershed.

“When the ATAC Access Road was proposed, we heard the concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun about proceeding with this type of development in the absence of land use planning,” Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai says in the release.

“To resolve those concerns, we engaged in collaborative discussions and have agreed to set up land use and road access management planning processes that will take place before the road construction commences.”

The road proposal submitted in July 2016 calls for upgrading 12 kilometres of existing road and trails as well as building 53 kilometres of new all-season road to reach the Rackla property.

The project involves 46 creek and river crossings requiring eight bridges, including a multi-span bridge across the Beaver River.

“This has been a difficult issue for our citizens who seek to balance responsible development in our traditional territory that brings benefits for our citizens and businesses with our responsibility to protect the lands, waters and animals,” Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Chief Simon Mervyn says in the government’s release.

In a press release issued by ATAC Resources this morning, the company says the positive decision means it can move on to obtaining the necessary permits and proceed with a submission to the Yukon Water Board.

“The receipt of a positive joint Decision Document between the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun and the Yukon Government is a major de-risking milestone for the company and all three projects within the Rackla Gold Property,” ATAC president and CEO Graham Downs says in this morning’s release.

“We want to thank Na-Cho Nyak Dun, Yukon Government and YESAB for their hard work and valuable feedback throughout the review process.

“This decision highlights the benefits of a collaborative relationship with local First Nations, government and communities.”

In an interview early this afternoon, Downs said it’s not known at this time when construction will begin but it’s unlikely this year.

It’s going to take some time to develop the access management plan because of its importance and ATAC wants to be an industry leader when it comes to the access plan, he said.

Downs said construction of the road will take approximately two years at an estimated cost of $11 million.

ATAC is in support of the recommendation calling for a guard house staffed around the clock near the beginning of the road, he said.

ATAC says in its proposal that it’s at the point point in its advanced exploration program that it needs larger equipment and increased quantities of fuel.

It would not be feasible to use air transportation as it has been doing to supply the exploration program because the equipment and volumes of fuel are just too large, the company maintains

The vast majority of the many submissions from the public on the proposal were opposed to the project largely out of concern about a new road through virgin wilderness and what it would mean for wildlife populations.

There were comments suggesting it was inappropriate to allow such access to a mining property that was still in the exploration phase, with no commitment to develop a mine there.

Concern was raised about the lack of land use plan in the area and the ability to control unauthorized traffic.

There were suggestions that once the road is there, individuals on ATVs will find a way to use it, no matter what.

Submissions of support, on the other hand, came from those interested in seeing the employment and economic development opportunities the road project would create.

The decision on the proposal comes as the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association and Canada gets underway in Toronto.

It’s the largest mining conference in the country, attracting some 24,000 delegates from 130 countries.

It was uncertain this morning whether this is the longest it’s ever taken to issue a decision document on a recommendation from the assessment board.

Timelines that normally require a decision body – the Yukon government in almost all cases – to issue a decision within 30 days did not apply.

Under the assessment legislation, when a joint decision is required by the Yukon government and a First Nation, there are no rigid timelines.

Comments (14)

Up 0 Down 0

BnR on Mar 12, 2018 at 6:37 am

Frank, perhaps you should preface your comments re. good land stewardship etc with "I assume....." or "I hope that...", because at this point, it's an just assumption.
At this point, if this road is going to be built, maybe the Yukon gov should build it. We're going to pay for it one way or the other, and at least this way ALL Yukoners can use it for access and to enjoy more of our territory.
As another commenter mentioned, it would be great to be able to get into that country to hunt rather than just the non resident outfitters.

Up 0 Down 1

yukon56 on Mar 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm

YESAB is out of control. They have their jobs and that is all that matters.

Up 6 Down 1

ProScience Greenie on Mar 8, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Fair enough. The process is working.

Not sure why there is a concern about hunting. Put up no hunting signs at the start of this road and then in the hunting regs, in a big bold font, indicate that hunting of any type by any person, FN or not FN, is not allowed and that anyone caught will be fined, jailed and lose any and all gear. It really should be as simple as that - we have laws, so enforce them.

When or if the road isn't needed anymore, a few days with a 450 size track hoe will ensure it's impassable for good.

Up 1 Down 7

Adam Stillar on Mar 8, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Frank G. I wouldn't say I was ratting on about the peel. I simply stated that the road would go to the border of the peel…which as you pointed out is the mountains that you stated. As far as enjoying the area to the exclusion of everyone else, that's also inaccurate. There's many user groups that enjoy the area, the problem is if a road is put in it will simply destroy what makes the area great right now… It will provide easy access to everyone.
For people thinking that having a road to access the area for moose hunting might want to reconsider. Yes the moose hunting will be good for a few years, but will soon be overrun and shot out. I'm sure the NND would benefit in the short term, but how long will that last? What will be the difference of hunting this area vs any other mining road in a few years. Simple fact that with a road there will be over-harvesting and in a short time will not be any better then any other area with easy access. Once that happens it will very likely never return to the way it is currently.
Frank maybe you could enlighten me as to why it's not possible to bring in the equipment needed via the existing winter road until there's actually the possibility of a mine? It looks like they would need to put roughly 20km of a new winter road to get to the rackla, rather then 53km of brand new all season road through an untouched valley?

Up 4 Down 2

kenn on Mar 7, 2018 at 4:56 pm

A lot of these comments do not seem warranted, by the posts... seems like a lot of posts from the out side envrironmental.. mental.. ists.. and they question stewards of the land? Bunch of outsiders.. thinking now that they have a Sweet GOVERNMENT job and want not.. said want not.

Up 6 Down 1

Josey Wales on Mar 7, 2018 at 8:50 am

A guard house they say, really?
Staffed by the cultural elites ensuring only mine staff and themselves use this road?
Fantastic, race based travel in our country too...awesome.
Our first migrants got yet another sweet deal, that should help with the epic division we are being SUBJECT to.
The dangers of pandering have created this mess, the mess will get far bigger as we run full speed backwards with progressive revisionist history.
.....and yes of course, this too is a liberal policy.
Way easier to control your subjects when they are all fighting amongst themselves, as many wee identity groups have far less strength than any national pride.
Absolutely by design....zealots, go nuts debunking.

Or...maybe I will now self indentify as a first migrant to tap into that keg.
If mars can be Venus now, tossing biology aside...why stop there in the lunacy.

Up 2 Down 1

Phil Facetious on Mar 7, 2018 at 4:12 am

I recommend we hire Coin & Goebels to put in this wilderness road. They can build these for practically nothing without much paper work.

Up 5 Down 0

Frank G. on Mar 6, 2018 at 9:43 pm

@ BnR: buddy, I don't have to show you anything. But I am aware of the agreements that NND has with ATAC and YG that deal with jobs relating to the road and mining activities, commitments for remediation, agreements to negotiate a road management agreement, etc. NND has done a terrific job to balance economic opportunities and stewardship.

@ Adam Stillar: I guess that outfitter guides like you want to continue to enjoy this area to the exclusion of everyone else. At least be honest about your guiding interest - rather than rattling on about the Peel. Also there is a mountain range between the end of this road and the Peel.

Up 6 Down 0

Newroad on Mar 6, 2018 at 8:38 pm

Of course, there’s no law in the Yukon that will make it illegal for the public to use this road, gate or no gate. There is no trespass law, and there certainly is no authority under the Territorial Lands Act or their regulations....

Up 2 Down 3

cynic on Mar 6, 2018 at 6:54 am

Ranj must be angling for a position on the board of ATAC.
I'm looking forward to being able to get my jet boat up to the Beaver river so I can hunt the upper Stewart country. Air services out of Mayo won't fly Yukoners, and this is PUBLIC land, we'll end up paying for the clean up, so just try and stop us. Look out Rogue River outfitters, we Yukoners are going to be knocking on your door.

Up 1 Down 6

BnR on Mar 6, 2018 at 6:46 am

Frank G. Please provide an example of the balance between "jobs and development with good land stewardship". Are you referring to this project?
Considering the road hasn't been built yet, how can you say this is an example of "good land stewardship". Regardless, cite your sources and show your work re. your assertion.

Up 1 Down 9

Adam Stillar on Mar 5, 2018 at 4:35 pm

This is a poor decision on YESAB's part, even after hearing overwhelming protests and concerns from citizens they approve. Disappoint with the so called stewards of the land( Na-Cho Nyak Dun). They must be getting some kind of undocumented kickback. Opening up a mining road right to the border of the peel watershed for exploration while a winter road is already in place. Not very responsible!

Up 9 Down 1

Frank G. on Mar 5, 2018 at 4:22 pm

Good to see NND and YG working together to balance jobs and development with good land stewardship. Good example for other areas of the Yukon.

Up 3 Down 7

yt guy on Mar 5, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Why couldn't it be a winter road only? Plan your fuel hauls and bring in your equipment in the winter. At this stage I don't see the need for an all season road. Regardless, we all know who will be using the road for hunting purposes. Any remediation plans?

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