Category: Scott Kent Letters

Working for and with our mining industry

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, August 12, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines & Resources

Since our government was elected in 2011, we have remained committed to supporting and promoting mining and mineral exploration in the territory. This is because we want Yukoners to have rewarding jobs and all the opportunities possible to build great lives for themselves and their families. Continuing to grow a strong economy, including a strong mining sector, is an essential part of reaching that goal. Our work to date includes regulatory process improvements, infrastructure upgrades, investment attraction, enhancement of training opportunities and credit and incentive programs.

One of our most significant initiatives is the enhancement of the Yukon Mineral Exploration Program (YMEP), formerly the Yukon Mining Incentive Program (YMIP). This program has been instrumental in assisting prospectors by providing a portion of the capital needed to locate, explore and develop mineral projects to an advanced exploration stage. The program provides economic incentives for individuals and companies to operate locally and invest in the Yukon economy, and it has proven to leverage more outside investment at a time when raising capital is challenging.

Over the last five years, we have dedicated $6.8 million to support 314 hard rock and placer projects through YMEP. In recognition of market challenges, we increased the annual budget to $1.4 million in 2014.

We have also made significant investments in infrastructure development to assist the mining industry, particularly through our Resource Access Roads Program. This provides $500,000 annually to upgrade and improve roads that are used to access natural resources. In 2015, this fund supported repairs to several mining access roads, including the Dawson Mining Roads, Duncan Creek Road and the South McQuesten Road. Funding critical infrastructure improves access for miners and prospectors, and keeps Yukoners working.

At a time when exploration activity is not at its peak, it is also important for our government to ensure prospectors can keep their mining claims in good standing. So we established a double assessment credit to allow claimholders to file for twice the value of work done on their claims in that year. This initiative provides direct benefits to industry because the double credit for work completed equates to a direct financial break for exploration companies. We maintain these programs because we recognize the importance of our mineral industry even during slower periods of development, and we want to encourage companies to continue working to stimulate our local economy.

In addition to our credit programs, our government’s commitment to keeping mines operating and encouraging growth has also been facilitated through improving regulatory processes and integrating resource management.

Most recently, our government has been leading the Mine Licensing Improvement Initiative (MLII), in partnership with assessors, regulators, First Nations and industry, to improve timelines, clarity, transparency and effectiveness of the mine licensing system. MLII was created as a cooperative effort to provide certainty to individuals and companies doing business in the territory.

We have also invested in new access to training to help Yukoners take advantage of job opportunities in mining, exploration and other sectors, and to provide a skilled labour force for companies doing business here. This includes our investment, along with our partners, in the new Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining (CNIM) at Yukon College and the CNIM mobile trades training trailer which strengthens local capacity and skills.

Our government remains committed to marketing Yukon mining prospects to outside investors. This gives us the opportunity to demonstrate to companies from around the world that Yukon remains one of the best places to explore, develop and mine. In addition, we continue to work with the Yukon Mining Alliance to facilitate Investment and Property Tours, which bring investors to visit our territory and see for themselves the incredible exploration potential.

Our goals for the territory have always been to maintain an internationally-competitive investment climate with a focus on regulatory certainty and efficient licensing, and we will continue to develop innovative ways to position Yukon at the forefront of mining worldwide.

Furthermore, we continually engage with the federal government, First Nation governments and stakeholders to ensure the mining and resource development industry continues to be a priority for all.

Like your smart phone? Thank a miner.

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, May 6, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines & Resources

Our government was very pleased to pay tribute to Yukon Mining and Geology Week yesterday in the Legislative Assembly.

Organized by the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the many events and activities that took place this past week – from the always-popular Mining & Exploration Discovery Camp at the S.S. Klondike to the Whitehorse Copper Belt field tour – provided great opportunities for Yukon families to learn more about the mineral industry and the science of geology.

It’s an opportunity for all of us to take the time to appreciate our rich mining heritage, while remembering the men and women who have contributed to it. This is also the week when we acknowledge the contributions that mining and mineral exploration have made to our quality of life in Yukon.

The trickle-down economic effects of a successful mining industry are obvious.

With exploration and mining activities come employment, wages and tax revenues. These revenues, combined with other sources, allow us to invest in infrastructure and programs – everything from roads, hospitals and schools to arts grants and health-care services.

The economic spinoffs from the minerals sector benefit local businesses such as hotels, restaurants and retailers. The industry also relies on the suppliers of equipment, transportation, health services, engineering expertise and environmental monitoring services.

In the tribute we also spoke about the ongoing work of the Yukon Geological Survey. A branch of the department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the YGS generates and compiles scientific and technical information about Yukon’s geology and mineral deposits.

The raw data it collects, and the analysis it provides, helps guide the decision making of the Yukon government and of Yukon’s private mineral sector.

For example, YGS recently acquired a wealth of historical data from the National Archives that was compiled by a prominent company that operated in the Klondike from 1923 to 1966, the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation.

Our geologists are pulling key information from these documents – which include 950 maps and 230 reports – to help identify areas within previously mined creeks where gold-bearing gravels may have been overlooked by the original miners.

Another YGS project this year is the electromagnetic survey of the Livingstone Creek area, a historical placer district northeast of Whitehorse that has been the source of large gold nuggets. The goal of this aerial work is to identify geologic structures that could be the source of this gold.

When the geophysical maps and data from this work are released to the public, prospectors will have a valuable new source of information to guide their exploration work in the region.

YGS geologists also visited more than 100 placer operations and quartz exploration camps over the past year. During these visits they shared their expertise with miners and prospectors, and collected information to update our mining and geology database.

These valuable investments by the Yukon Geological Survey produces practical geologic information and supports exploration, which in turn provides longer-term economic benefits to all Yukoners.

As it has for well over a century, placer mining continues to be a solid contributor to Yukon’s economy. Last year, an estimated 62,271 crude ounces of placer gold was extracted, with a value of approximately $73.2 million.

On the hard-rock side, companies invested more than $65 million in exploration last year, despite the global downturn in commodity prices. The fact that companies such as Wellgreen Platinum, Kaminak Gold and ATAC Resources are continuing to successfully raise exploration capital is a testament to the mining sector’s tenacity and to Yukon’s mineral potential.

Another highlight of the past week was last night’s official launch of the Our Yukon, In It Together campaign, which is supported by our Department of Economic Development.

Led by the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the campaign is designed to help Yukoners better-understand how mining enriches our lives and our communities.

The launch featured the debut of six new videos that tell the stories of our most vital private sector employer and its committed First Nations partners. I encourage all Yukoners to check out the videos at www.ouryukon.com.

I would like to thank the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Geological Survey, and everyone else who worked together to organize events for another exceptional week dedicated to mining and geology in Yukon.

Making land available to Yukoners is a priority for this government

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 22, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines & Resources

A key component of the Yukon Party’s 2011 platform, part of our vision for achieving a better quality of life, is providing land for Yukoners.

In that platform, we promised to make land available for community, residential, recreational, agricultural, commercial and industrial purposes, while respecting the interests of existing land owners.

We also promised to modernize the legislation related to the land titles process, and to use technology to improve the timeliness of transferring land titles.

As we approach the end of our five-year mandate, I’m very proud to say that we’ve kept these promises, and will continue our work in the months ahead to ensure that more land is available for development.

Over the past several weeks, my department has made several announcements about new opportunities for Yukoners to purchase recreational and residential lots.

Later this summer, eleven new recreational lots at Dutch Harbour on Kluane Lake will be made available through a land lottery.

This development project is moving ahead as a result of the excellent working relationship between the Kluane First Nation and the Yukon government. Our two governments are continuing work to explore other recreational and residential land opportunities in the Kluane region.

The project is inspired by the success of our recent development and sale of 19 recreational lots on Bennett Lake and Tagish Lake, which were created as a result of an economic development agreement between the Yukon government and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

The Yukon government is working closely with the City of Whitehorse to make land available in the city, so that Yukoners can build homes and raise their families. This year we have committed more than $15 million in funding to move forward with additional phases of Whistle Bend, which is now a vital and growing neighbourhood.

We’re also partnering with Whitehorse to develop a vacant parcel of land at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street. This important community project has the potential to provide a mix of affordable housing and commercial space in the city core.

And we are also working with the municipalities of Mayo and Dawson on land development and planning. As many as 16 rural residential lots and five agricultural parcels will be developed just north of the Village of Mayo, and a joint plan will be created for future development in Dawson’s north end.

Since 2011, we have also made residential lots available in Teslin, Grizzly Valley, Destruction Bay, Dawson City, Haines Junction, Carmacks and Watson Lake.

New agricultural land is a priority for our government, as we look toward strengthening Yukon’s food security. Over the past two years, we have sold approximately 130 hectares of Crown land for agriculture, and are currently preparing another 370 hectares of land for sale in Ibex, Sunnydale, Marshall Creek, Golden Horn and Watson Lake.

Our work to modernize land titles legislation and processes took a big step forward last fall, with the passage of the Land Titles Act, 2015. This act is a key component of our Land Titles Modernization Project, which began in 2011.

The act allows for registration of First Nations Settlement Land with the Yukon Land Titles Office, while safeguarding Aboriginal title to that land. We believe this is a first in Canada, and yet another example of Yukon leading the way in its relationship with First Nations.

Earlier this month, we announced a commitment of $1.1 million to further advance the modernization project. This phase will improve the operation of Yukon’s Land Titles Office, its computer systems and business processes.

From these funds, $513,000 will go towards buying and installing a new electronic database and land titles registration system. This will provide Yukoners with more accessible land titles information and improved, modern registry services.

As our economy grows, and more and more Canadians realize that Yukon is the best place in the country to live, work, play and raise a family, the demand for land is sure to continue. Making that land available to those who need it will continue to be a high priority for our government.

Growing and supporting Yukon’s information technology sector

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 1, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Highways & Public Works

Last October, the Yukon government announced it would increase its information technology (IT) capital spending by $2 million in the upcoming 2016/17 budget. This reflects our ongoing commitment to expand opportunities for Yukon’s rapidly maturing IT sector.

Today I am proud to say that we are more than making good on that commitment. When we table our budget next week, it will include an additional $3 million in IT spending. This 46 per cent increase over last year is a win-win for the Government of Yukon and for local industry.

The Yukon government believes in buying locally, and government projects already generate many contracting opportunities for Yukon’s private IT sector. We work closely with Yukon-based system development and infrastructure firms to ensure that, whenever possible, we procure essential IT products and services from Yukon businesses. That will continue to be a priority.

The Yukon government recognizes the increasing importance of the digital economy to the territory. Our increase in IT investment was made with some key goals in mind.

First off, it will provide a foundation for growth for Yukon’s knowledge and technology sector. Our export market for IT products and services is already growing. This spending will accelerate that growth, help make Yukon a hub for innovation, create new employment opportunities, and allow Yukon companies to make investments in staff and training.

It will also allow us to expand our government’s eServices initiatives. We know that many Yukoners prefer to access government programs and services online because it is fast and convenient. Increasing our spending on IT infrastructure projects will provide citizens with enhanced mobility and connectivity, and make the Government of Yukon even more accessible.

Last year, the Department of Environment introduced an online purchasing service for angling licences and campground permits. In the year ahead, the department will initiate work to make hunting licences and seals available online as well.

New eServices will be also be made available by other departments. Yukon professionals and tradespeople who require licences will be able to register, pay for, and manage those licences online. Yukoners will also soon be able to make online requests for birth, death and marriage certificates.

The Department of Health and Social Services will also continue its work on the eHealth initiative. It will soon be able to securely share electronic health records – with the patient’s permission – with appropriate health professionals in the private and public sectors throughout Yukon. This will provide doctors, nurses and pharmacists with the best information available to treat their patients.

The Department of Justice will also see its new courts system go live in this fiscal year as part of its continuous improvement initiative. The system will provide live-time client and case tracking and processing for adult and youth criminal courts. A local contractor has already been hired to configure this system to Yukon’s requirements.

Justice will also issue a tender this year to finalize the best approach for Yukon’s Land Titles office to evolve from a paper-based titles system to a digital system that can provide online access to land title information.

This year’s additional funding will also support the move of the Yukon government’s data centre. The centre is currently housed on the third floor of the Main Administration Building on Second Avenue. It’s cooling and power backup systems are aging, and our need for data storage continues to grow. To meet our future needs, the centre will be moved into a portion of the old Whitehorse public library building.

We believe that supporting the technology and knowledge sector is one of the best ways to grow and diversify our economy, and is an important step toward our goal of a Yukon that is a contributor to the economy of our country. We will continue to make strategic investments to help us reach that goal.

A new Biomass Energy Strategy for Yukon

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, February 26, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines & Resources

Yukon has a long history of using wood as a source of energy. From the Gold Rush to the 1960s, many Yukoners found employment supplying massive quantities of wood to fuel the sternwheelers that navigated our waterways, and almost everyone relied on locally harvested wood to cook food and stay warm in winter.

Today, only 17 per cent of Yukon’s homes and buildings are heated by wood, and the Government of Yukon would like to see that number increase. To support that goal, we have released the Biomass Energy Strategy, which is designed to reduce our dependence on imported fuels by using a local renewable resource to meet our heating needs.

What exactly is biomass energy? Quite simply, it is energy created by burning organic matter. Here in Yukon, that typically means burning wood (or wood products) to heat our buildings.

Wood has the potential to be the most cost-effective heating fuel. Each year, Yukon families and businesses spend approximately $50 million on imported heating fuels. Heating with wood or wood by-products can cost half as much as heating with fossil fuels or electricity.

Heating with wood will help improve our energy self-sufficiency. Most of our communities are relatively close to abundant fuel wood sources. Using wood instead of oil or propane makes us less vulnerable to price increases or disruptions in fossil fuel supplies, all of which comes from outside the territory.

Developing a biomass industry will also create jobs and grow our economy. For every dollar spent on imported fossil fuels, about 60 cents leaves the territory. In contrast, almost all the money spent on wood stays here and supports local businesses. Even a modest switch from fossil fuels to biomass would result in significant opportunities for Yukon’s forestry and heating industries.

The Biomass Energy Strategy is a commitment of the 2009 Energy Strategy for Yukon, which supports replacing fossil fuels with cleaner renewable energy sources. It is also consistent with our 2009 Climate Change Action Plan, which recognizes that burning wood efficiently for heat produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than burning oil or propane.

When managed well, wood heat is considered to be nearly carbon neutral. When wood is burned, carbon is released into the atmosphere. As forests re-grow, an equivalent amount of carbon is removed from the atmosphere.

The Yukon government is already using biomass energy in two of its buildings. Dawson’s wastewater treatment plant uses a cost-effective biomass boiler that is fueled by locally produced wood chips, and the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has been fully heated by a wood pellet-fueled biomass system for the past four winters.

It’s important to note that the strategy’s main emphasis is on the use of modern, high-efficiency biomass heating systems in public and industrial buildings. These clean-burning systems need to meet CSA or EPA emission standards and must be correctly installed and properly used.

The Yukon government will protect the health of Yukoners and the environment by developing standards, guidelines and programs – including expanded air monitoring programs – to ensure that biomass appliances and fuels are efficient, clean and safe.

Yukon is not the only northern jurisdiction advocating a switch to biomass. As of late 2013, the Government of the Northwest Territories installed 14 modern biomass heating systems in public buildings. This has reduced its consumption of heating oil by six million litres, lowered its GHG emissions by approximately 15,000 tonnes, and significantly decreased its heating costs.

Some northern European countries are now meeting more than 20 per cent of their heat and power needs with biomass systems. The Yukon government would like to see the same thing happen here.

We are committed to launching biomass energy pilot projects in new or existing government infrastructure. Our ultimate goal is to help create long-term demand for biomass fuels, which will encourage Yukon businesses to invest and participate in a local biomass industry.

The Yukon Biomass Energy Strategy joins the recently adopted Independent Power Production policy and the Micro-generation policy as part of the Yukon government’s broader efforts to increase renewable energy use and to achieve energy self-reliance.

The strategy clearly demonstrates that there are strong economic and environmental arguments for switching from fossil fuels to wood to keep us warm during our cold winter months. I look forward to working with Yukoners, the private sector and industry organizations in the years ahead to achieve a strong, economically viable, safe and clean biomass energy industry for the territory.