Ross River mineral staking ban extended for one year

The government's ban on mineral staking within Ross River Dena Council's territory has been extended for a year. Meanwhile, a Yukon Supreme Court consent order to allow mineral staking on other Kaska territory expires today.

Questions remain about status of mineral staking on Liard First Nation, Kaska Dena Council territory

Kaska Dena Council negotiator Dave Porter, left, chats with Yukon Chamber of Mines executive director Samson Hartland at the Mineral Roundup in Vancouver on Jan. 25. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

A moratorium on staking within the traditional territory of the Ross River Dena Council has been extended for one year.

It's the fourth time the Yukon government has issued an order in council, extending the staking prohibition on 13 per cent of the Yukon.  

The moratorium was set to expire on Jan. 31. An order in council, dated Jan. 23, extended the staking prohibition until Jan. 31, 2018.

But there are conflicting reports on when the government informed the Kaska of that development.

Yukon government and Kaska negotiators met on Friday, Jan. 27. Yukon cabinet spokesperson Sunny Patch said the Kaska were told then about the order in council.

"They were informed on the 27th of January that the staking ban would be extended for one year," said Patch.

That comes as a surprise to the Kaska negotiators.

An unnamed Kaska source told CBC that "the first we heard of the [order in council] was on CBC Monday morning."

"There were five negotiators at the table [on Friday] and one on the phone. An extension is a fairly fundamental thing," the source said, saying they would have taken immediate note of such a development.

The source added that Ross River Dena Chief Jack Caesar had not received a letter from the Yukon government, informing him of the extension of the staking ban. The source said the Ross River Dena Council had been informed of past extensions.

The ban has been in place since late 2013, following an appeal court ruling that said the territorial government must consult with the First Nation about whether to grant mineral rights on Crown land.

Kaska Dena traditional territory comprises 23 per cent of Yukon and extends into British Columbia. (CBC)

Meanwhile, questions remain about a Yukon Supreme Court consent order from September 2015. 

It provides that the staking moratorium is suspended on Liard First Nation and Kaska Dena Council traditional territory, which comprises 10 per cent of southeast Yukon. In effect, the consent order allows for mineral staking to continue on the territories of the two First Nations.

Patch could not say what would transpire as of Tuesday, Jan. 31, other than to say that "negotiations are ongoing."

Kaska Dena Council negotiator Dave Porter earlier told CBC News that it is vital to reach an understanding with the Yukon government. 

"Where are we going to go, in terms of mining exploration and mining development in the southeast Yukon? [It] contains some of the richest resources in the Yukon, covers 50,000 square miles of the Yukon, so it's a very important area and a very pressing question."

The Kaska Dena Council has also filed a suit in Yukon Supreme Court that mirrors one filed by the Ross River Dena Council, over how hunting licences are issued in the Yukon portion of its traditional territory. The Yukon Government has not yet responded to the suit.

Corrections

  • The original version of this story published Jan. 30 was based on the understanding of the Kaska Dena Council that the Ross River mineral staking ban would expire on Jan. 31. The story was substantially updated after CBC learned that an order in council had been signed Jan. 23, extending the ban for one more year.
    Jan 30, 2017 8:21 PM CT

About the Author

Nancy Thomson

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.