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WHITEHORSE – The Yukon’s new premier has several issues to deal with on the mining file as he prepares for his first Association for Mineral Exploration BC Roundup in the top job. Many of these were his own creation as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources in the previous mandate while some are left over from the former premier.
In 2018, when he was the minister, Ranj Pillai declared the Beaver River Land Use Plan was a ‘new way of doing business’ and would be completed in two years. Five years later the plan is nowhere near complete and the proponent of a tote road in the area publicly questioned if the Yukon was indeed open for business.
The highly touted Resource Gateway Project has seen little work done since the Prime Minister travelled here over five years ago to announce hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. Since then, Yukoners have seen a number of press releases announcing project agreements, however, only one project has actually seen shovels in the ground.
“Premier Pillai needs to deliver on these commitments he made during his time when he was in charge of the department,” said Energy, Mines and Resources Critic Scott Kent. “These are initiatives left undone from when the former premier shuffled him out of EMR, and the mining industry is waiting for these issues to be addressed.”
A number of other mining-related issues were left on the table by the former premier for his successor to deal with. A 2017 commitment to Yukoners to develop a collaborative framework for timelines and reassessments of resource projects has languished. This is a serious blemish on the Liberal government and needs urgent action.
Over half of the Yukon is currently out of bounds for new mineral staking. At the recent Geoscience Forum in Whitehorse, attendees were told that the number of companies and prospectors active in the territory could drop to a 57-year low. This figure should alarm the new premier and he needs to tell Yukoners how he intends to reverse this trend.
The Yukon Water Board has also recently come under criticism from a Yukon Supreme Court Judge. In October 2022, Justice Karen Wenckebach stated the Yukon Water Board ‘sought to take on the role it believed Yukon or Na-Cho Nyäk Dun should have played. In doing so, it overstepped its mark and became too partisan. The water board must be careful: it is not an adversarial party and should not act like one’.
When asked about this in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Liberals brushed it off. We hope the new premier takes this issue seriously and deals with it appropriately.
“The new premier has a track record of making big promises and not delivering on them,” added Kent. “His new way of doing business with the mining industry has so far yielded poor results. We hope he can clean up the messes left by both him and the former premier so this critical industry can deliver a bright future for the Yukon.”