Yukon Chamber of Mines celebrates 70 years

“There are still so many unknown resources out there”

by Karissa Gall

Founded in 1943 with the establishment of the Yukon branches of the British Columbia and Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Chamber of Mines has grown to become a stand-alone registered society now celebrating its 70th anniversary year.
According to executive director Michael Kokiw, the chamber has developed from a meeting place for 12 members to an effective advisory body advocating for a membership now over 400.

“Originally the chamber was a place for gathering information and for finding jobs,” said Kokiw.“That’s changed. Now the chamber mostly focuses on being an advisor to all levels of government, so that before any policy changes are put in place we speak on behalf of our membership as the voice of the industry, explaining what the possible effects of those changes could be.

“We’ve gone from being sort of a club for miners to being an organization that offers support and advisement to all levels of government before policies are put in place.”

The permit process

One such policy is Class 1 of the Quartz Mining Land Use Regulation classification system for exploration. While Class 1 “grassroots” exploration activities with “low potential to cause adverse environmental effects” do not require government approval as long as the operator complies with the operating conditions, the process of a mineral claim being staked in the Ross River Area, located within the area of the Ross River Dena Council as its Traditional Authority, recently led the Yukon government to propose rule changes that would require prospectors to notify government of any planned Class 1 exploration activities. The government would in turn be able to notify any affected First Nation and could deny the activities or request changes.

Kokiw said the government launched a public consultation into the proposed rule changes this spring and the chamber continues to be involved in the conversation.

“Currently all levels of government are in the process of discussing this with us and other sister organizations like us to talk about what kind of policies they’d like to put in place in the future and what would the actual effects be to the industry,” he said, adding that the chamber is “always dealing with trying to make (their) permitting process stronger.

“We have a very strong permitting process in the Yukon,” he said. “We have an organization called YESAB (Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board). It’s very unique in the way it approaches permitting, different than any other place across Canada.”

Kokiw said that because YESAB is an agency that gives a recommendation to government on how it should proceed with permitting a project, as opposed to a government agency that gives a permit, they’re able to turn that recommendation around on a guaranteed timeline.

“That’s something that’s of course very important to the industry, because every day costs them money,” he said. “So although we have one of the best permitting regimes, we’re always looking at improving that, making timelines more defined and more secure for companies that do want to put forward projects.”

Special events

Kokiw said the chamber has also become well known for holding industry events: an annual geoscience forum and trade show that takes place in November as well as annual activities around National Mining Week in May.

“Our mining week is very focused on our youth and employment,” he said. “We set up a mining camp or exploration camp and tents in the middle of one of the parks, and the public and all the schools come by. There are helicopter rides available and panning for gold, and a lot of job opportunities. It’s almost like a mini job fair as well.”

He said the chamber focuses on youth and employment because “in the last couple years the Chamber of Mines has seen the Yukon moved from being in exploration to having more producers.

“We actually have some mines on the ground now, and because of that we now have projects where we know that there’s going to be employment available for the next five, 10, 15 years. 

“It’s not just about rocks. There’s everything from jobs in administration to management to environmental studies; the whole gambit.

“We now know that we’re going to be able to give our youth an opportunity to have jobs where they get to stay in the Yukon and they don’t have to leave, so a lot of what we do is making our youth aware of what opportunities there are. There are quite a few opportunities which would allow students to stay in the Yukon and take advantage of their home and their future."

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