Anti-exploration NIMBYs win in Whitehorse, but elsewhere perhaps not so – by Kip Keen ( – July 20, 2012)

Mineral explorers in urban areas come up against NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) opposition as the will of mineral explorers meets with the will of the public, but economic necessity is turning the tables in some areas of the world.

HALIFAX, NS –  If you had plans to stake a claim in downtown Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, forget it, at least for the next five years. The Yukon territorial government, after prodding from the Whitehorse City Council, has put a moratorium on staking of hard rock claims in one of North America’s more storied gold jurisdictions. Whitehorse, after all, was a prospector’s hub during the Yukon Gold Rush and, indeed, a launching point for Yukon’s recent gold renaissance. But Whitehorse is no more the dusty turn-of-the-19th-century town where, for the most part, destitute men descended to make their fortunes, of which a few did and many did not. It is now a growing city centre – if minuscule by global standards with about 25,000 inhabitants – with a populace that has more than mining on their mind.
Indeed the banning of claim staking in Whitehorse has for years been an issue. Of all banner bearers, one of the more vocal has been the Whitehorse Country Ski Club. With the prospect of mineral development in the city’s parks and ski trail system, it has demanded a ban on claim staking in town. It is a rather surreal issue that might befuddle a Parisien, Londoner or even Vancouverite for that matter: to find wooden posts with small metal tags nailed to their tops stabbed into the earth at, say, a local park. Would a New Yorker recognize the seemingly old-fashioned claim stakes, which are still used in the Yukon’s system of mineral rights, if a prospector pretended to claim Central Park Yukon-style?
But this is exactly what has been happening in downtown Whitehorse. A prospector recently tried to claim much of the Whitehorse waterfront, staking a popular downtown park. The claims were denied. And while the Yukon government said this particular act wasn’t the precise reason why it decided to work with Whitehorse council to ban claim staking for five years within most of Whitehorse, it makes for a prime symbol of the rationale behind the decision to do so. “This prohibition on new mineral staking is aimed at reducing the potential for future conflicts between mining claims and other interests such as surface rights, recreational uses, and areas designated as parks or greenbelts,” said Brad Cathers, the Yukon Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, in a statement.
It is not as if this issue is unique to the Yukon. Indeed, it is one of the thorniest matters in the mining industry; where the rights of miners come up against citizenry that want nothing to do with mining development, at least not in their own backyard (or next to it). It can lead to protracted battles for and against the development of deposits. In this there are no lack of examples. Astur Gold, in northern Spain, has taken on the contentious Salave gold project that met with stiff opposition from the Asturian government over the past decade. Rio Narcea tried to permit Salave in the mid-2000s but felt the wrath of protesters who ultimately helped derail the project as the local government decided open-pit mining would not be permitted on the land in question.
In this case, though, times times have changed to Astur’s favour. Spaniards face wicked unemployment now and, not ignorant of this fact, Astur has been careful to frame the project as an economy booster in an economically depressed region. The opposition does not sound as fierce and Astur has often highlighted how strong local support is for the mine with opinion polls on its side and CVs flooding in by the thousands.

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