Peel watershed draft plan creates 'economic disaster': Yukon mining chamber
The Yukon Chamber of Mines has panned land-use restrictions being drafted for the Peel watershed in northeastern Yukon, saying it would spell the end of industrial development in the area.
The Peel Watershed Planning Commission's draft land-use plan, highlights of which were posted on its website Monday, calls for much of the pristine wilderness watershed area to be protected from development.
Under the plan, almost half the land would be excluded from mineral staking, and development would not be allowed in "especially sensitive areas."
"It's going to be an economic disaster for the Yukon. There's no question about that," Carl Schulze, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, told CBC News on Tuesday.
Schulze said mining companies have invested about $48 million into the Peel watershed region over the past eight years, with no adverse effects to the environment.
"This is turning an area where we've peacefully tried to get along with people and co-exist, well, it's turning it into a battlefield," he said.
"The fact that that's still pristine, considered a pristine wilderness area, speaks really, really well of the Yukon's mining industry [and] the way it can take care of the land."
That view was echoed by Mayo Mayor Scott Bolton, who said the proposed plan will hurt his community's economy.
"The last eight years in the territory there's been $48 million spent on exploration. Whether they've found anything or not, those are real dollars going into our economy, and a lot of it comes to Mayo," he said.
"I don't want to see that go away."
Schulze said the draft plan will make more than half of the Peel watershed off-limits to development. Proposed concessions to grandfather thousands of existing mineral claims in the region would be useless if developers cannot work on those claims, he added.
"I'll tell you as an explorationist, I certainly wouldn't recommend anybody [to] invest in any of those properties," he said. "So as far as I'm concerned, they're good as worthless."
The planning commission unveiled details of the draft plan Tuesday to First Nation and community leaders in Dawson City. It will hold a similar meeting later this week in Fort McPherson, N.W.T., before making public presentations in Whitehorse next week.
The entire draft plan document is expected to be posted on the commission's website by April 28. It is inviting public comment on the plan until June 30.
The Peel watershed land-use plan is a requirement of land-claim agreements among Yukon First Nations in the area.