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N.W.T.'s purchase of Mactung rights gets mixed response in Yukon

Mining analysts and environmentalists in Yukon are still making sense of the N.W.T. government's purchase of the rights to develop a mineral property at the Yukon/N.W.T. border.

'It raises very serious concerns,' says Yukon Conservation Society spokesperson

North American Tungsten's Mactung property is located about eight kilometres northwest of MacMillan Pass in the Yukon. (North American Tungsten)

Mining analysts and environmental critics in Yukon are still trying to make sense of the Northwest Territories' decision to purchase the rights to Mactung, a mineral property recently owned by North American Tungsten and located along the Yukon/N.W.T. border.

The N.W.T. government announced last week it had acquired the leasehold interests for the undeveloped Mactung property near MacMillan Pass in the Yukon.

The acquisition is part of a complicated deal under the N.W.T.'s devolution agreement that requires the N.W.T. government to "maximize" the value of Mactung while also giving the territorial government the option of handing over authority for North American Tungsten's other property, the recently-shuttered Cantung mine, to the federal government. 

The Cantung mine has been under creditor protection since it shut down earlier this year.

'We are certainly pleased to know a government of some sort owns the mine,' says Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

"We are certainly pleased to know a government of some sort owns the mine," said Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

"We know the governments of Yukon and N.W.T. have a vested interest in ensuring a proponent would come along and purchase that mine and get it back in production once mineral levels are back at sustainable levels."

But Lewis Rifkind, a mining critic with the Yukon Conservation Society, said the acquisition is troublesome.

Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society says N.W.T's purchase of North American Tungsten's mining properties could be a conflict of interest when it comes time for an environmental assessment.

"We have now got an environmental regulator — the N.W.T. government — becoming a junior mining company," Rifkind said. "It raises very serious concerns."

"Is there not an inherent conflict of interest when this project eventually gets to environmental assessment? What role will the N.W.T. play?"

The N.W.T. government said in a statement that its acquisition would "protect the economic potential of the Mactung resource for future sale."

The Yukon government said it is still examining the the details of the N.W.T.'s acquisition.

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