This is a summary of information the Yukon Prospectors Association’s (YPA) has received at consultation meetings, describing the issues and processes we are all dealing with. It includes YPA’s response and some of our concerns and positions to be shared with all involved as may be appropriate.
Under the Yukon Government (YG) and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation (THFN) MOU of March 1, 2017, both parties have committed to consulting and resolving issues pertaining to Class 1 notifications. YG Strategic Initiatives Branch, using the processes and procedures described in the Devolution Transfer Agreement, as may be amended by the Mining MOU of Jan 24th, has committed to consulting with THFN, other First Nations and the exploration and mining industry. A letter dated April 10, 2017 from Minister Pillai states that the Strategic Initiatives Branch will consult with the Yukon Prospectors Association (YPA). The MOU with the THFN states they may also consult with the mining industry and the public. Having consultations is good and should result in better policies and procedures.
The Yukon Supreme Court consent order of March 2, 2017 declared that to the extent that mining exploration activities may prejudicially affect the rights of THFN as laid out in the TH Final Agreement, YG has a duty to notify and, where appropriate, consult with and accommodate the THFN before allowing activities.
Clearly defining exactly what is meant by “the extent” and “may” and “where appropriate consult with and accommodate” are necessary to reach understandable recommendations and regulations. The YPA hope that negotiating the clarification of these terms will encourage responsible exploration and development, protect the environment and local and indigenous culture. This requires a reasonable and workable regulatory regime based on scientific rather than political criteria, and consensual negotiation.
Any requirement to give formal notice about being on Yukon land doing low impact activities is opposed by the YPA, as it would discourage prospecting, exploration and other activities. Prospectors prefer to keep a low profile regarding areas of initial exploration. Confidentiality about location of exploration activities and possible discoveries is important, not unlike how those who hunt, fish and gather prefer to keep their locations somewhat secretive.
Staking and recording of a claim should be considered adequate notice that low-impact Class 1 work will be undertaken without further notice. Land that has had the mineral rights legitimately granted to stakeholders should be assumed to be subject to exploration and testing for mineral potential.
The YPA believe that all governments and the public should acknowledge that responsible prospecting, exploration and mine development is good and is encouraged by the industry, as evidenced by the best practice standard guidelines. Responsible exploration results in benefits for all Yukoners such as economic activity and good training and employment opportunities in our own back yard. It is better to have responsible development here instead of allowing these economic benefits go to other jurisdictions.
Methods should be developed and improved to inform, educate and consult with those involved administering and regulating the industry, negotiators and the general public. Some misunderstand that some of the techniques used in exploration allow for very low impact to the land. The Yukon Geological Survey (YGS) and the Ministry of Economic Development do some educating and promoting, often in cooperation with the Yukon Chamber of Mines (YCM), Klondike Placer Miners’ Association (KPMA) and the Yukon Mining Alliance (YMA). This assists in increasing understanding of exploration activities. Training and education by prospectors, other industry players, and industry-based associations, in co-operation with branches of government, is laudable and should be expanded.
Requiring formal notification for Class 1 exploration activities will cause more of a backlog and an unnecessary burden on all governments’ resources, resulting in delaying or even discouraging potential development that could have positive economic benefits for the Territory.
The Yukon Prospectors Association looks forward to continued communication and consultation with TH and other governments involved to increase understanding of the concerns and issues. We are open to any suggestions or information that will increase understanding and help resolve issues positively.
We will hopefully be able to participate in meetings with some of the governments and associations involved before too long to discuss and consult as the issues are being discussed and resolved.