A ram’s horn, in a valley north of Dawson by: Malkolm Boothroyd
Written by: Maegan McCaw, Conservation Coordinator, and Randi Newton, Conservation Manager
While planning has been underway in the Dawson Region since 2019, hopes of protecting areas and setting thresholds on development have been pitted against a steady stream of staking and mineral development. The most recent example is the proposed Coal Creek quartz exploration project, which sits in Tr’ondek Hwech’in traditional territory, 85 km north of Dawson City in a large area of intact wilderness.
The Coal Creek project is just the latest in a slew of projects that threaten to undermine the promise of the Dawson Regional Land Use Plan and broader commitments to land use planning and co-management in the Umbrella Final Agreement. Because of this, CPAWS Yukon is asking the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Board to reject or pause its assessment of the project until the land use plan is complete. Just last month, CPAWS asked for a similar pause on the Antimony Creek quartz exploration project, perched only 2.5 km from Tombstone Territorial Park.
Land use planning is a powerful tool for bringing people together and creating a sustainable future for the territory’s land, waters, wildlife and people. Embedded in the Umbrella Final Agreement, regional land use planning provides a vision and a roadmap for Yukoners and First Nations to protect, use, and manage land and resources. Planning can protect areas that are ecologically or culturally important, and can also set out areas where development is allowed at certain thresholds.
The Coal Creek project involves a lot of air traffic (up to 700 helicopter and 60 fixed-wing aircraft flights annually), which is known to disturb sheep and caribou, ultimately lowering their weight and reproductive success. This is all to support quartz exploration activities targeting copper, cobalt, gold and silver across the 63 km2 Monster property. Exploration activities are proposed to occur over 10 years, and include drilling, trenching, soil sampling, trail construction and line cutting. ATVs and 4×4 vehicles will be used at first but, if exploration reveals a large deposit, an access road will likely be constructed. The proponent, Go Metals Corp, has revealed few details about future access roads but also estimates 15 km of new on-claim roads would need to be constructed.
These activities would cut into a large, undisturbed wilderness area that supports healthy wildlife populations and sustainable hunting, trapping, and outfitting activities. This area is important habitat for grizzly bears, moose, sheep, caribou, and raptors, and is a top candidate to be protected by the Dawson Land Use Plan. If this project is approved, it is likely to degrade this large wilderness area through habitat fragmentation, disturbance – both from ground and air-based activities – and access, which increases the feasibility for other mineral exploration programs and increased hunting pressure. What’s more, don’t forget that mineral exploration work has the potential to lead to an open pit or underground mine, depending on the quality of the mineral deposits detected. Is that what we want in one of the least disturbed areas of the Dawson region?
Questions like this are meant to be answered through the Dawson Land Use Planning process, in line with the intent of the Final Agreements, not by a race against the clock.
If you think development like this should be paused until the Dawson Regional Plan is complete, there are two things you can do:
- Let YESAB know you think the project should be deferred until the Dawson Land Use Plan is complete. Click here to be taken to the project page, and then click on “Add a Comment”. You can simply write in a comment or upload a letter. Comments are due February 17. If you need more information, you can read our full submission.
- Provide input on the draft Yukon Mineral Development Strategy. This strategy is a chance to reimagine mining in the territory, and could put a stop to incompatible development going ahead of land use planning. CPAWS has an info page with links to send a letter or take the survey. Input is due February 22.