Category: Scott Kent Letters

Continued progress on securing Yukon’s energy future

As Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, December 5, 2014 by Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation Scott Kent

It’s no secret that the provision of reliable, affordable, clean energy is an issue of utmost importance for all Yukoners. With the release of Yukon Development Corporation (YDC)’s hydroelectric power work plan earlier this year, the Yukon government continues to outline exactly how we plan to address this need. The document was the first step in the comprehensive investigation of a new large-scale hydroelectric power facility for Yukon.

I’m pleased that yet another step has been taken forward on the path to securing power for Yukon’s future needs. Midgard Consulting Inc. has completed the first phase of a site screening process, narrowing the options for potential locations for new hydro-power facilities in Yukon to 16. In partnership with Midgard, YDC hosted a stakeholder workshop and public event for Yukoners to learn about the potential sites and what makes them the most favourable options at this time.

Thank you to all who attended. It is important that we work together to ensure a project of this scale and importance to Yukoners’ quality of life can go forward, and provides opportunities for the public to learn about the government of Yukon’s long-term vision for clean energy. A second stakeholder workshop and public event will take place on January 29-30, 2015, and I encourage Yukoners to participate in the event and inform themselves about our energy options.

While we plan for an expansion in new hydro facilities, we continue to invest in Yukon’s electrical transmission infrastructure. In fact, just this week an announcement was made on a $5.3 million project to improve transmission infrastructure in central Yukon. YDC will work with its wholly-owned subsidiary Yukon Energy Corporation to advance the project through permitting and preliminary engineering processes during the next several months. The project will upgrade the line between Keno City and Stewart Crossing from 69 kV to 138 kV. Substation improvements related to the project will also be addressed. This will enable future growth in the area while improving the reliability of the electrical grid as a whole.

With the Yukon government providing funding for the project, it is ensured that system improvements can be made without any impact on electrical rates. Initial work is expected to begin early in 2015. Yukon Energy has also announced plans to complete the work to select a site for a five to ten megawatt wind farm.

Access to affordable electricity is integral to the daily lives of Yukoners and the continued economic development of the territory. I look forward to updating the public as we take the next step in securing Yukon’s energy future with clean, reliable hydroelectric power.

Scott Kent

Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation

Harvest Time in Yukon

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, October 10th, 2014
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources

As Thanksgiving approaches and the snow begins to fall, we’re reminded that the long days of summer are behind us. Now is the time to prepare for the winter season. Autumn is also a great time to be thankful for the hard work of Yukon farmers and the bounty of the land.

Many of you enjoyed the Fireweed Community Market Society’s summertime outdoor markets. Through increased funding from the Canada-Yukon Growing Forward 2 program this year, we were able to enjoy this bustling community enterprise twice a week over the summer months.

A favourite of locals and visitors alike, the Fireweed Market offers a wide variety of delicious local greens, artisanal cheeses, decadent baked goods, bedding plants, Yukon-made arts and crafts, and useful workshops. If you missed out on attending the summer market, not to worry — the Yukon-Made store is open year-round and the 12 Days of Christmas Market is right around the corner.

Besides the delicious food, one of the great pleasures of going to markets such as Fireweed — or visiting the many other wonderful Yukon government-supported community gardens in Dawson City, Carmacks, Burwash Landing, Haines Junction, Old Crow and Carcross — is talking with the farmers, bakers, artists
and crafts people who produce the goods. On behalf of our government, I want to express my gratitude to these local producers for helping to put sustainable, healthy food on Yukon tables.

Yukon farmers were able to double the number of acres in orchards in the summer of 2014 – with the new plantings primarily being the hardy haskap berry. A member of the honeysuckle family originating in Siberia, haskaps are proving to be highly adaptable to Yukon. These tangy little purple berries are high in various nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, fibre and potassium, and are finding their way into all sorts of dishes and drinks both sweet and savoury.

Local root vegetables also enjoyed a high profile this harvest season as many schools participated in the From the Ground Up fundraiser. Like the Fireweed Market, From the Ground Up is supported by your Yukon government through Growing Forward 2 and the Department of Health and Social Services. Children from participating schools sold approximately 3,500 boxes of healthy, locally-grown vegetables. That equals about 50,000 pounds of beets, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and turnips! Through their efforts, the students raised approximately $45,000 and collected 437 boxes of vegetables for various community organizations.

As a government, we are proud to support Yukon farmers and other agricultural entrepreneurs, and we celebrate the vital role they play in supporting the health and well being of Yukon families. My department and your Yukon government will always stand up for the agri-food sector — keeping it competitive and resilient. We will continue to seek innovative ways to give local food producers more opportunity to bring their wholesome products to Yukon tables.

Scott Kent
Minister of Energy Mines and Resources

Placer Mining: a mainstay of Yukon’s economy

Scott Kent PreferredAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, August 15th, 2014
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources

As a Yukoner, or someone even remotely familiar with Yukon history, it’s more than likely you already know that mining has played a significant role in the cultural and economic history of our territory. But for some, that’s where the knowledge ends.

The history of mining in the territory has its roots in the Klondike Gold Rush and the decades of placer mining that followed. Placer mining is an industry founded on family-operated gold recovery in the creeks and valleys of the Yukon wilderness – a way of life that continues today for many placer miners. How it can differ so greatly from the large-scale, global enterprises that we tend to associate with mining today is explained in its very name. A quick internet search will tell you that the word placer derives from the Spanish placer, meaning shoal or alluvial/sand deposit. An alluvial deposit (like the loose soil and sediments found in valley floors or deposits found in old river and stream beds) is an ideal place for materials like gold and other precious metals to be manually extracted and gathered from the earth.

Today, nearly all placer operations are small, owned and operated by families, with a few employees. A working placer mine can involve the entire family, spanning generations, with some current Yukon operations dating as far back as the Klondike Gold Rush. While it is an industry steeped in history, Yukon placer miners currently lead the world in safe and efficient gold recovery. Our operators abide by regulations and legislation that ensure environmental stewardship, reclamation and site restoration. The same tenacity that is required to work the goldfields, generation after generation, has led to finding better, more innovative ways of doing things.

Placer mining is a challenging business, yet it continues to thrive in our territory. It has enjoyed growth over the last two years, which in turn positively affects local businesses and services directly and indirectly. With 142 active placer operations in Yukon, total production in 2013 was 59,462 crude ounces which equates to a value of US $63.2 million.

The hard work and perseverance of those involved in this industry are admirable. Success requires dedication, commitment, and a supportive community. The Yukon government is proud to be a strong supporter of this sector. I would like to highlight some of the initiatives we have undertaken over the past four years that demonstrate our commitment to the continued success of this community.

The Yukon Geological Survey has organized annual placer workshops to engage placer miners and better understand their needs, and is actively involved with the Dawson Regional Land Use Plan. The information being shared will assist the Land Use Planning Commission with technical decisions related to future growth of the industry.

The Yukon Mineral Exploration Program (YMEP), administered through the Yukon Geological Survey, will award more than $350,000 to 13 placer-related exploration projects in 2014. This investment will assist the industry in finding new resources so it can continue to be a sustainable economic contributor.

We also support the work of the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, a non-profit advocacy group that continues to advance the Yukon’s placer mining industry on all fronts.

The association is very active in promoting sustainable placer mining and placer exploration in Yukon, and provides educational information to the public on modern, responsible placer mining and placer exploration.

Gold mining is part of our identity as Yukoners. In addition to the Klondike, other areas of Yukon, such as Mayo-McQuesten, Dawson Range, Livingstone Creek, Kluane and Whitehorse South, have historical and current placer gold mining activity. On behalf of Yukon government, I would like to thank all those working the creeks for their continued contribution to Yukon’s economy and its rich history and culture.

Meeting the need for reliable backup power

Scott Kent PreferredAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, July 18th, 2014
by Scott Kent, Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation

Construction has begun on a facility to house two new liquefied natural gas (LNG) engines in Whitehorse, an important step toward improving the reliability and affordability of our backup power system for Yukon. Two diesel generators that have been operating for more than 45 years are scheduled for retirement. This project will replace them with newer, more efficient natural gas-fired engines.

As referenced in two independent life cycle assessments by ICF International and by the Pembina Institute natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gases, particulate and nitrogen oxide air emissions than diesel. Therefore, Yukon Energy has determined that natural gas is a cleaner and more affordable fossil fuel than diesel, and is the best choice at this time to help us ensure backup power is available. The two new natural gas engines will form a small portion of our overall energy supply, but will be an important element for us all.

From a health and human safety perspective, our government wants Yukoners to be confident that the lights will turn on and the furnace will start when needed, especially during the cold winter months when demand is often highest. In an isolated power grid such as we have in Yukon, there is no renewable source of energy that could provide reliable safe backup for peak power demand. LNG is our best backup option and we are excited that the project is proceeding.

The LNG facility will initially replace two diesel engines which are currently rated at 8 megawatts total capacity and are scheduled for imminent retirement. The natural gas engines have a total capacity rating of approximately 8.8 megawatts. A third natural gas engine may be added in the future which would add an additional 4.4 megawatts of backup capacity.

This project has undergone a number of important public review and approval processes, including a Part III review by the Yukon Utilities Board and an assessment by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB). Both public processes allowed Yukoners to learn more about this initiative and express their views. Both reviews resulted in recommendations that the project proceed, with the YESAB process recommending a number of terms and conditions, which were accepted by government and will be integrated into the project.

This project has been linked by some to concerns about hydraulic fracturing, as opposed to conventional methods of oil and gas extraction. Our government is well aware that these concerns exist, and that’s why the Yukon Legislative Assembly has established an all-party select committee to investigate the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing. In terms of the LNG to be used in the new generators, it will be sourced from southern Canada. Although there is no requirement that the LNG be extracted using conventional methods, we know that both diesel and LNG are sometimes obtained using the hydraulic fracturing process. Our position is that of the fossil fuels currently available for backup, natural gas is the best option.

The notion that this project is intended to promote natural gas development in Yukon is misguided. Were that perspective true, Yukon’s landscape would already be dotted with oil wells intended to replace the millions of litres of oil derivatives such as aviation fuel, gasoline, diesel, and furnace oil, already imported annually as it has been for decades.

Our government’s focus is to provide the cleanest and most affordable power alternatives possible to Yukon residents, with a range of sources ensuring the most secure supply. Yukon’s legacy hydro assets (Whitehorse, Aishihik, Mayo, Fish Lake) have provided a generation of Yukoners with clean, affordable renewable hydro-electric energy. We’re fortunate to have 95 per cent of our power generated by renewable sources, including the windmills on Haeckel Hill in Whitehorse, but primarily from hydro power.

However, as Yukon grows, it will need additional generating assets to meet the needs of the “next” generation. That is why our government is placing significant focus on implementing the work plan to achieve “next generation hydro” power in Yukon. Earlier this week, the Yukon Development Corporation announced it has awarded a contract for the critical public, First Nations and stakeholder engagement and consultation on this initiative. Ultimately, this work will lead to the construction of a new source of clean, affordable hydro power for our growing Yukon population and economy.

We also have a number of other initiatives underway, including a consultation on our draft independent power production policy, a joint study with Alaska to explore the feasibility of developing electrical and telecommunications connections with southeast Alaska, and the launch of our Micro-Generation Production Incentive Program.

This approach places Yukon in the best possible position to ensure reliable, clean, affordable power for all users. The LNG project which is now underway is an important component of our comprehensive energy strategy.

Yukon government announces changes to notification of low-level mining exploration

Scott Kent PreferredAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, June 20th, 2014
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources

The Yukon government, Yukon First Nations and mining industry representatives all recognize the social and economic importance of mining to Yukon and the need to respect treaty rights. At recent meetings, in May, we held constructive discussions focussed on upcoming changes affecting Class 1 (low-level) mining exploration.
These changes have raised some concerns. However, the need for notification of Class 1 activities was tested in court and the court provided a very clear direction. The Yukon government is continuing to implement this direction and this week we announced the first set of changes. The direction we are headed includes a phased-in approach to expanding Class 1 notification across Yukon, while simultaneously examining the need to adjust Class 1 criteria.
Notifying First Nations of Class 1 work began in the Ross River area last December 27, after a court case brought by the Ross River Dena Council, which does not have a settled land claim. The next phase will begin July 1, when Class 1 notification will be required in several new areas. These include: 1) all Category A and B Settlement Lands as identified under each Yukon First Nation Final Agreement; 2) the shared Traditional Territory of Kluane First Nation and White River First Nation, which is also described as the Southwestern Yukon Class 1 Notification Area; 3) the remainder of the Kaska Traditional Territory not already covered by the Ross River Area order, which is also described as the Watson Lake Class 1 Notification Area; and 4) the asserted area of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, which is also described as the South Yukon Class 1 Notification Area.
As a next step, the Yukon government will be working with First Nations and industry on setting revised thresholds for Class 1 notification that will apply across all of Yukon by the summer 2015 field season. This is necessary to help ensure a consistent, clear and orderly regulatory system across Yukon in terms of requirements for Class 1 activities.
Notification of low-level mineral exploration activities does occur in other areas of Canada and has not deterred or affected the overall success of the industry. We are confident that our system will allow for continued success and growth in the mining sector while protecting aboriginal rights in Yukon.
We also realize that some low-impact Class 1 exploration activities may not require notification. We want to ensure that prospectors, for example, are not subject to regulatory requirements that exceed those of other land users. That is why our government is launching a review process that will aid in determining appropriate thresholds for Class 1 activities before the notification provision is implemented across Yukon next year.
Over the past year-and-a-half, the Yukon government has met frequently with industry representatives, First Nations and has consulted with the public to determine the best path forward.
The management of our natural resources and interpretation of First Nations rights is evolving not only in Yukon but across Canada. We must look for ways to work together to ensure both the sustainability of the mining sector and that we are meeting our legal obligations to First Nation governments.
Our hope is that all our industry and First Nation partners will participate in upcoming discussions with a view to ensuring that we understand and respect each party’s interests and goals.