Placer miners blast Yukon gov't over Dawson planning commission

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Placer miners blast Yukon gov't over Dawson planning commission

Placer miners blast Yukon gov't over Dawson planning commission

The Yukon government said it won't postpone the formation of a land use planning commission for the Dawson region, despite pleas from placer miners.

The government announced earlier this month that the six-person commission would be formed to draw up a land use plan for the area. Three members are to be nominated by the government, and three by the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation.

People interested in being nominated must apply by Friday.

According to the Klondike Placer Miners' Association (KPMA), that's too soon. The association said it should have been notified long ago of the deadline, but instead heard about it through the media.

"The fact that this announcement was made in the middle of a busy mining season where placer miners' attention is focused on earning a year's wages in only few short months while working 16 hours or more a day is completely unacceptable," KPMA President Mike McDougall wrote in an open letter to the government.

McDougall went on to write that relations between the KPMA and the government have taken a nosedive since the Liberals took office in 2016.

"At every possible opportunity the KPMA has demonstrated its interest in working with this government, yet to find out about this important issue through the media was frankly an insult," he wrote.

'Extremely shocked,' minister says

Yukon's Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Ranj Pillai said he felt blind-sided by McDougall's angry letter.

"I have to say I was extremely shocked. I have a great relationship — or I thought I did — with Mike McDougall," Pillai said.

"The tone of the letter, and specifics in the letter, many of these things were never said to me before."

But Pillai is unapologetic about the timeline to create the commission. He said the KPMA knew that the government has been keen to get the land use planning process moving again, after last year's landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision on the Peel watershed plan.

"We really wanted to get this process underway … We're seeing a planning process that is stalled for a very long time," Pillai said.

"We think that 21 days, coming out and saying that we need people to apply, was appropriate."

'Largest single land user in Dawson area'

For McDougall, though, placer miners should have been given some special consideration. That would have meant waiting until fall.

"Arguably, the placer industry is the single largest land user in the Dawson area," McDougall told CBC. "We also stand to be impacted the greatest by any land use plan."  

"As we've seen in the past, land use plans don't tend to open ground up, they tend to close ground up."

Pillai said he respects the placer mining industry, but he's not willing to put on the brakes just for KPMA.

"There's a lot of stakeholders — the KPMA, there's a number of tourism groups, there's other individuals in the mining sector — just a multitude of people that would be stakeholders in this process," Pillai said.

"Could we have waited for September? Yes, we could. Is that our wishes, or those of our partners? No— our wishes were to get this process moving."