Asian investment in Yukon tops $1B: former minister

Asian companies' investment in Yukon's mineral and gas industries is believed to have topped $1 billion, says the territory's former economic development minister.

Asian companies' investment in Yukon's mineral and gas industries is believed to have topped $1 billion, says the territory's former economic development minister.

Jim Kenyon, who was minister of economic development until earlier this year, spent the past few years encouraging Chinese companies to invest in Yukon's mineral resources.

Kenyon said he estimates Asian investors have poured more than $1 billion into Yukon's economy over the past five years, in order to secure access to the territory's resources.

Chinese investors are involved in at least three mining projects and one gas play in the territory.

"If you're willing to go that route, then you are going to be very successful in the long run, if you've got a good product," he told CBC News in an interview Thursday.

Six major deals between Yukon-based companies and Asian investors have been announced since 2007, according to government officials.

They include the purchase of Yukon Zinc Corp.'s Wolverine mine near Ross River, Yukon, by Jinduicheng Molybdenum Group and Northwest Non-Ferrous International Investment Company for approximately $101 million.

Last year, Selwyn Resources entered into a joint venture with Yunnan Chihong Zinc and Germanium Co. Ltd. to conduct a feasibility project  in Selwyn's Howard's Pass lead-zinc property.

A government official said Asian investment in Yukon projects totals over $460 million to date, but that figure would exceed $1 billion when related spending is included.

Less affected by markets

Kenyon said Chinese companies that are investing in Yukon are different because they are state-owned and less affected by stock markets, meaning they are involved in projects for the long run.

"That's the thing — we don't want this 'boom and bust' economy. It's all long-term," he said.

"We really have to look at what we're doing now and generations from now and keep everything going, and doing it in an environmentally stable and reasonable way. We never said it's easy, but it can be done."

Lewis Rifkind, mining coordinator with the Yukon Conservation Society, said the long-term view that Chinese companies seem to have would allow more time for planning.

"We might be able to mitigate some of the worst damage compared with previous inflows of cash that we've seen in the past," Rifkind said.

Kenyon said any developments in Yukon must be done under territorial labour and environmental legislation and regulations.

"The only demand they make is they want to know what the demands we're going to make," Kenyon said, adding that Yukoners mainly want jobs and a clean environment.