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.