Yukon Chamber of Mines wants action on road building promises
Resource Gateway program announced by Prime Minister to appreciative mining executives in 2017
The Yukon Chamber of Mines says the territorial government needs to speed up implementation of the Resource Gateway program announced more than three years ago.
The program announcement was the highlight of Justin Trudeau's first visit to Yukon as prime minister.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and Trudeau jointly pledged just over $360 million in funding to build and upgrade mining roads. Mining companies promised another $108 million.
The main targets of the money were connecting Newmont's Coffee gold project to roads in the goldfields south of Dawson City, Casino's copper-gold mining project west of Carmacks to the Freegold Road and Selwyn Chihong's zinc-lead property north of Watson Lake, accessed by the Nahanni Range Road.
The Chamber of Mines is worried that funding might dry up if it's not used soon, said executive-director Samson Hartland.
"We continue to be deeply disappointed that none of the projects are moving forward in any manner," said Hartland, "and even more concerned that if government doesn't move quickly to allocate the funds and commence the projects, that federal funding might be reallocated elsewhere," he said.
Hartland said one of the biggest challenges facing resource exploration is a lack of transportation infrastructure.
"I don't think you can overstate, you know, a half billion dollar commitment to infrastructure development in the territory that has some of the best infrastructure and the best geology in the world," he said.
Yukon Highways and Public Works minister Richard Mostyn said the government is moving ahead with the program.
It announced last week that it has an agreement with the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation to upgrade three bridges on the Freegold Road. The government previously announced a bypass to keep mining related traffic out of Carmacks.
Mostyn said the government also has an agreement with the Liard First Nation to improve bridges on the Nahanni Range Road and improve the Robert Campbell Highway.
He said there's also an agreement with the Ross River Dena Council to improve the North Canol Road and the roads between Faro and Ross River. These were not part of the original Resource Gateway program.
Work on roads in the goldfields south of Dawson City has not begun, Mostyn said, because the government is still negotiating an agreement with the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation.
"It's the signing of that agreement with affected First Nations that allows us to start the planning and tendering and execution of those construction projects," Mostyn said.