Yukon may be too soft on illegal land use, minister says

Minister Ranj Pillai was responding to questions in Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, about an unauthorized mining trail that was built near Carmacks two years ago.

'We are considering legislative changes to increase the penalties,' said Mines Minister Ranj Pillai

'It certainly has been a challenging situation, working within the framework that we have in place,' said Ranj Pillai, Yukon's Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. (CBC)

People who violate Yukon land use regulations could soon be facing stiffer penalties, according to the territory's mines minister.

Minister Ranj Pillai was responding to questions in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, about an unauthorized 17-kilometre, 3.5-metre wide trail that was built near Carmacks two years ago.

In December, a Yukon prospector and a local contractor were each fined $1,200 for building the trail.

NDP leader Liz Hanson suggested the punishment was too light, and Pillai acknowledged it was "a very significant situation."

"We are considering legislative changes to increase the penalties under the Territorial Lands Act," Pillai said. 

"It certainly has been a challenging situation working within the framework that we have in place."

Hanson was not entirely satisfied, though. She said the illegal trail near Carmacks allowed hundreds of mining claims to be staked in a "newly-accessible area."

An illegal, 17-kilometre trail between the North Klondike Highway (bottom left) and a prospector's mineral lease (top right) is indicated by a blue line. The prospector was charged by the Yukon government and fined. (Government of Yukon)

"Some of those claims are in the name of those who illegally built the road," she said. 

Hanson argues that the $1,200 fine seems to have "erased any harm done, and the prospector is able to go on, business as usual."

'It's kind of like sending a bank robber to jail, but telling him he can keep the money,' said NDP leader Liz Hanson. (CBC)

"It's kind of like sending a bank robber to jail, but telling him he can keep the money," Hanson said. "It makes no sense." 

Hanson also asked whether Yukoners will be on the hook to pay for the reclamation work to de-activate the road. 

Pillai said the government is now working with local First Nations to develop a reclamation plan. In the meantime, he says, a gate has been installed at the trailhead to prevent access.

He said the government is also looking at changing legislation to make those who violate land use regulations "responsible for remediation of the environmental damages caused by unauthorized work."

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