Treaties and Land Claims: Current Problems

YT


March 1, 2021


Land Claims

Yukon Regional Land Use Plans

The Narwhal – Two Yukon First Nations are renewing calls for a regional land use plan to be completed before any new development on their traditional territories is considered, including a mineral exploration project right next door to Tombstone Territorial Park. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun recently sent letters to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board stating that approving the quartz exploration project, called Antimony Creek, without a land use plan for the Dawson region would violate their rights.

Regional land use plans determine what can and cannot occur in a particular region, essentially balancing conservation values, First Nations’ rights and industrial pursuits. These plans are created by independent commissions and signed off on by the Yukon government and affected First Nations. Creating them is a requirement under the Umbrella Final Agreement, which was signed by 11 First Nations in 1990 and paved the way for their self-governance. However, most First Nations have been waiting decades for these plans.

Antimony Creek is on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Na-Cho Nyäk Dun territory and about 2.5 kilometres away from Tombstone, the territory’s flagship park that boasts towering, jagged peaks and abundant wildlife.

The project is in an area of great importance to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, whose citizens frequently harvest plants and wildlife for cultural and subsistence purposes. Traditional gravesites and heritage travelling routes are a short distance away from the project area.

Ryanwood Exploration Inc. didn’t return a request for comment. In its permit application, the company said First Nations haven’t been engaged, “but discussions will be conducted.” even though they plan up to 300 holes will be drilled per year, with some burrowing 10,000 metres into the earth, to find what appears to be gold and silver deposits. The 10-year project involves the construction of an access road, a network of trails and a drill pad. The company is proposing up to 883 round-trip helicopter flights on an annual basis to transport workers and supplies. According to GeoYukon, a Yukon government mapping tool, the project area covers roughly 86 square kilometres… Sue Thomas, a spokesperson for Yukon’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, told The Narwhal in an email land use planning doesn’t negate tenure holders’ ability to develop their mineral claims.

“Development and/or exploration projects, like any other industrial and non-industrial uses, are allowed to continue while the planning process is underway,” she said.