Yukoners working in the mineral exploration industry are facing a gloomy outlook as they get together in Vancouver this week for the annual Mineral Exploration Roundup.
The federal Department of Natural Resources says exploration spending in Yukon was down in 2014, and Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, doesn't expect 2015 to be much better.
"There isn't really any projection for that to change," Hartland says.
He is hoping to get a better sense of Yukon's 2015 mining outlook at the Roundup in Vancouver. Hartland is one of a couple hundred Yukoners expected to be at the conference, which brings together thousands of mining representatives from across Canada and internationally.
Statistics from Natural Resources Canada show mineral exploration spending in the Yukon dipped 12 per cent last year, to about $88 million. Exploration spending decreased about 10 per cent nationally.
Hartland says Yukon's mining industry is impacted by global markets, making investment capital hard to come by.
He says that while there's not a lot the territory can do to influence global markets, there are things that can be done on a local level to make Yukon more attractive to investment. They include promoting the territory's regulatory process and relationship with First Nations, but the political situation did not help the mining sector in 2014, and there's no sign that will change in 2015.
First Nations and environmental groups took the Yukon government to court over the government's decision to reject recommendations from the Peel Watershed Planning Commission. The court sided with the plaintiffs, and the government is now in the appeal process.
Derrick Hynes, director of business and economic research with Yukon Economic Development, says exploration spending in the Yukon is still quite healthy.
"If you look at a trend line over the past 8, 10 years, to be in the 80 to 100 million-dollar ballpark is not abnormal for the Yukon," Hynes says.
He says because the mining sector makes up about 20 per cent of Yukon's GDP, declines in the mining industry do impact the territory's economy.
Hartland, however, says without the Selwyn Chihong project and Kaminak Gold's exploration work south of Dawson City, it would have been a poor year for exploration in the Yukon.
Selwyn Chihong, a Chinese-backed lead-zinc project straddling the Yukon-Northwest Territories border, had $50 million injected into it last year, according to Hartland. That accounts for a large amount of the total exploration spending in the territory.
Others in the industry have described 2014 as dismal, with many companies operating with skeleton staffs. Well-known prospector Shawn Ryan has said the grassroots level of the exploration industry is surviving in large part because of territorial government incentive programs.