For Yukoners, a challenge is an opportunity

Stacey Hassard, MLA for Pelly-NisutlinAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, March 11, 2016
by Stacey Hassard, Minister of Economic Development

As Premier Pasloski noted in this space just three weeks ago, mining has been a cornerstone of Yukon’s economy and an important part of our culture for more than a century.

While the mining industry has faced some very real challenges over the past five years, metal prices are slowly recovering, and share values in the sector are on the rise as well.

This is good news for Yukoners, because mining is one of the industries that will drive our economy for the next century. When the inevitable recovery takes place, Yukon will be positioned to take full advantage.

For the past week the premier, Minister of Energy Mines and Resources Scott Kent and I were in Toronto for the annual conference of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC). Joining us were representatives from the Yukon Mining Alliance and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce.

The PDAC conference is the world’s largest mineral and mining event. Last year it was attended by more than 1,000 exhibitors and 23,000 attendees from more than 100 countries. It is known as the place where miners come to do business.

That’s why we chose this week to call on the federal government to renew the Canadian Mineral Exploration Tax Credit. The credit provides incentives to the junior mining companies that are the lifeblood of Yukon’s industry.

Events like the PDAC conference provide opportunities to promote our mineral resources and investment opportunities by building partnerships and connecting with stakeholders, key companies and prospective investors.

We were at the conference to highlight Yukon’s remarkable endowment of mineral deposits, its potential for future resource development and its investment readiness. We remain one of the most under-explored districts in the world, and the resources that have been identified remain largely untapped.

To help attract these national players north, the Yukon Government, in partnership with the Yukon Mining Alliance, will host the first-ever Yukon Investment Conference in Dawson City from July 11 to 15.

This conference will bring together investors, industry representatives and mining analysts for keynote presentations by the Yukon government, corporate presentations, geological and infrastructure updates, and site visits to six of Yukon’s most advanced and prospective mining projects.

And we were also in Toronto to let the industry know that we have not been sitting idle during the downturn. We have used the time wisely, focusing on what we can control and laying the groundwork for an economic recovery that will bring prosperity to all Yukoners.

We are focused on building a solid framework for sustainable mine development over the long term. Part of that framework includes an effective assessment and regulatory regime.

Along with Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Water Board and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, the Government of Yukon is working to achieve greater clarity in the mine licensing process through its Mine Licensing Improvement Initiative – an important message for attendees at this convention.

Our goal is to reduce the duration and cost of assessments, without foregoing the checks and balances that ensure projects are responsible.

Another important part of our long-term path to prosperity is infrastructure. Before we can grow, we need to build. In the year ahead, our focus will be investing in infrastructure that will be important to the mining industry.

Yukon’s road network is the North’s most extensive, but extending and improving that network would enable access to new resources.

We are now eagerly awaiting a response from the federal government to our recent application for funding towards the Northern Resource Gateway Project.

This project will improve road access to two of Yukon’s richest resource areas: the White Gold district, location of Western Copper and Gold’s Casino Project and Kaminak’s Coffee Project; and the Selwyn basin, home to the Selwyn Chihong project, Golden Predator’s Three Aces property, and Canada’s largest lead-zinc deposits.

Working in partnership with Canada to create new resource access roads will increase the probability that these game-changing projects will become viable and move forward.

When they do, the benefits will be far-reaching. They will grow our economy and reduce our dependence on federal transfer payments, and will potentially employ thousands of Yukoners for years to come.

Improved infrastructure in Yukon will also bring benefits and opportunities to Yukon First Nations. As a recently released study from the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board notes, there is an “infrastructure deficit” in the North that’s a barrier to improving the quality of life of remote First Nation communities. Better infrastructure will bring social as well as economic development.

Our government remains committed to raising the profile of Yukon mineral and mining prospects and turning challenges into opportunities. We will continue working to let the world know that now is the time to invest in Yukon.