Government’s Slinky Mine dialogue a chance for long-term resolution to sticky Yukon mining challenges

Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson has written the following open letter regarding developments in the Slinky Mine permitting process:

It is refreshing to hear that Ranj Pillai, the newly appointed minister responsible for the stewardship of Yukon’s land and resources, is not shying away from the ongoing Slinky Mine controversy in Dawson City.

The Yukon NDP supports efforts to address the competing demands for land. The Government of Yukon can play a leadership role by opening dialogue within Yukon on how to balance expectations for a sustainable mining industry with Yukoners’ expectation that decisions made about where and when mining occurs are made in a 21st century context.

Yukon is not the first jurisdiction to have to deal with finding this balance. However, Yukon is one of the only places in Canada where both territorial and First Nations governments have committed to jointly developing modern resource legislation – a commitment reflected in both the Final Agreements and the Devolution Transfer Agreement.

Before Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Pillai gets involved in mediating a resolution to the Slinky situation, he owes it to Yukoners to talk with us about which principles will guide that process.

In the early 1990s, when the province of British Columbia had to deal with competing demands for land, it set up a commission that resulted in mineral compensation regulations.

The conversation in Yukon could start by considering some of the principles guiding public policy elsewhere:

  • A mineral claim is not ownership of property. It provides access to the minerals owned by the taxpayers through the Crown (or a First Nation). These minerals do not belong to the miner until they have been extracted from the ground; even then, they are subject to royalty or mining tax.
  • Compensation policies should not induce private investment in resources that may have a higher value in public use.
  • Care needs to be taken in any conversation about compensation. Taxpayers should not be made to be insurers against the risk of expropriation.
  • We need to determine how to value investments, and the compensation that taxpayers might pay, should there be a decision to restrict further mining activity in a given area.
  • Any proposed compensation policy should recognize the significant federal and territorial incentives and tax deductions offered to mining sector investors.

I commend Minister Pillai for not ducking the issue. His challenge is to avoid jumping to a solution to Slinky that will have long term consequences for all Yukoners.

Fulfilling the commitment to work with Yukon First Nations, the resource extraction sector and Yukon citizens to develop modern mining legislation would make sure this is not an expensive one-off, but an enduring and just resolution.