The Yukon government says it won't be cancelling mineral claims in protected areas of the Peel Watershed.
Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, says cancelling claims would create a series of lawsuits and demands.
“It’s something that we think would send shockwaves through the investment community if we were to expropriate or compensate.”
The debate took place yesterday in the legislature, as protesters gathered to protest the Peel Watershed land use plan.
Many were disappointed when the Yukon government released its land use plan for the area that feeds the Peel River in January. The government’s plan protects 29 per cent of the region from development, rather than the 80 per cent called for by the Peel River planning commission.
It also says existing mineral claims in protected areas are still valid and can be developed, such as those held by Tarsis Resources in the southeast part of the region.
Yesterday, the opposition said the Yukon government could cancel or expropriate existing claims in the Peel without paying companies.
“The government knows full well they have no obligation to pay compensation,” says Jim Tredger, Yukon NDP MLA for Mayo Tatchun.
“From the year 2000 to 2008 there was almost $50 million spent in the Peel Watershed,” he said in the House. “Those are real dollars spent by public companies, many of their shareholders are Yukoners. Of course they would be looking for compensation.”
The opposition also asked the government to stop any new staking until a court case on the land use plan is resolved.
The government says it welcomes prospectors who want to stake their claim in the Peel region.
In spite of the opposition, and the protesters outside, Yukon Environment Minister Currie Dixon defended the government's environmental record.
He says Yukon is setting an example for the rest of Canada.
“I don’t agree with the characterization that the leader of the NDP has suggested here when she suggests that our actions are token gestures,” he said. “When we look across the board at some of the actions we have taken, Yukon now protects more of our land base than any other province and territory in the country.”