North

Outfitters' objections do not sway YESAB, which recommends mining road

Over the objections of outfitters, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) is recommending a road project north of Mayo be given the green light.

Yukon assessor says hunting outfitters 'only one component of economic activity', cites project's benefits

An access trail at ATAC Resources' Tiger gold deposit, on its Rau property north of Mayo. (ATAC Resources)

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) has recommended a new 65-kilometre mining road in central Yukon be approved, despite concerns about its potential impact on wildlife.

The road is proposed by B.C.-based ATAC Resources as necessary, to allow heavy machinery to reach the Tiger deposit on its Rau gold property north of Mayo. Right now, the property is accessed only by air, or over a frozen swampy trail.

The new road would require eight bridges and 38 culverts over small streams and rivers. It would be intended to last 10 to 20 years.

YESAB's recommendation, published Wednesday, is that the road be approved with a number of terms and conditions, meant to minimize impact on wildlife, and traditional hunting and trapping.

The proposed mineral exploration road would start at a point near Keno City, and continue northeast to its Rau property. The road would require eight bridges and 38 culverts. (YESAB)

The YESAB report notes the proposed road would pass through a number of traplines, and would "likely require the relocation of trapping infrastructure, including trails and cabins."

The report notes these impacts are "adverse and irreversible" and says compensation should be paid. 

Increased hunting pressure

Another concern raised during YESAB's review was that a new road would lead to more hunting of moose. The report says that could be mitigated to a degree but not entirely.

'The project, even with access controls, will lead to an increase in hunting pressure' on moose, according to the YESAB report. (CBC)

"The project, even with access controls, will lead to an increase in hunting pressure," it says.

YESAB recommends the Yukon government and the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation develop an "access regime" which could include a staffed guard house at a road gate. ATAC has proposed deliberately routing the road through the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun settlement land to allow the First Nation legal control over who uses it. 

YESAB also recommends that small bridges could be removed to restrict access when the mining company is not using the road.  

The Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation could not be reached for comment. It had previously requested more information about the project and agreed to meetings with ATAC Resources. 

YESAB sees no negative effect on fish, caribou, bears

YESAB also considered possible impacts on other species — fish, caribou, bears — and for the most part found nothing of major concern.

The report said the "effects to fish and fish habitat are not significant." 

It also dismisses concerns about caribou, saying "no information is available to suggest that the project area comprises key habitat areas for caribou or that caribou regularly occupy the project area." 

The impact on bears is also not seen as significant, other than occasional bears who may be lured by workers' garbage or food if not handled properly.

YESAB notes that 'the project will likely result in disturbance to nesting peregrine falcons' but says that could be mitigated by forbidding any work within one kilometre of a falcon nest. (Brian Ratcliff)

Other species, however, raised more concern.  

YESAB notes that "the project will likely result in disturbance to nesting peregrine falcons" but says that could be mitigated by forbidding any work within one kilometer of nesting falcons, as determined by a biologist.

YESAB also recommends the project keep at least 250 metres away from Ladue Lake.

Overall, it says the access road "does not propose large scale habitat destruction" and recommends discussions continue.

Outfitters campaigned against  

The Yukon Outfitters' Association has campaigned against the road project.

YESAB notes the companies can "charge upwards of $30,000 US for a guided moose hunt," and are worried about losing business.

"Population declines in moose would likely result in reductions in quotas and financial losses to their businesses. This loss represents a real and adverse effect to outfitters within the overall economy," the report says. 

However, while YESAB acknowledges the impact, it offers no sympathy.

ATAC's Tiger gold property. (ATAC Resources)

"Outfitters will be adversely affected, but outfitters are only one component of the valued component of economic activity," the report says.

There are 19 outfitting concessions in Yukon. The proposed road is located in or near four of them. 

YESAB notes the combined 19 outfitting concessions in Yukon drive about $10 million dollars in economic activity to the territory every year. 

The YESAB report will now be sent to the Yukon government and the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation. 

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