mining

Mining in Yukon

Yukon, Canada’s westernmost territory, has few people but generates much mining revenue. Protected forest habitats cover large swaths of Yukon, and many people, like those in Canada’s other two territories, trace at least part of their ancestry to the area’s indigenous peoples. Statistics Canada, the Canadian government’s official website for national demography, reports that 25 percent of the territory’s 30,190 people identified as “Aboriginal.”

Though Yukon has the second smallest population of any first order territorial subdivision in Canada and only 0.1 percent of the Canadian population, it has the third highest GDP per capita in the country. A gold rush attracted many prospectors in the late 19th century and mining has for many decades been one of the territory’s major industries. While the government has succeeded mining as the primary employer in Yukon and tourism has become a cornerstone of the territory’s economy, mineral extraction brings in much income, and exploration for gold, silver, copper, nickel, lead, and zinc, among other minerals, remains highly successful.

“Mining Yukon”, a slickly designed website created by the territorial government, touts the many advantages of mineral extraction . According to the website, Yukon boasts “80 mineral deposits…some of which are world class in stature,” as well as 2,600 different known sites of various minerals. It also provides excellent geological and land use maps, such as the one appearing at left.

Mineral exploration continues to create economic optimism in Yukon. Strategic Metals Ltd., the self-described “pre-eminent explorer and claimholder” in the territory, announced in late May the potential for promising gold mines. Many of the potentially mineral-rich sites that the company is exploring are located in eastern Yukon, which already produces large quantities of gold and copper. Strategic Metals generates revenue from 160 land holdings across the territory and owns substantial shares in other Yukon mining firms.

Another mineral extractor in Yukon, Ethos Gold Corp, has found potentially large gold deposits. The CEO of Ethos recently stated, “We are excited to have made several new and substantial gold discoveries during the first drill test program on the Betty Property which is confirmed to have potential to host large gold deposits.” Ethos owns a very substantial 1,020 square kilometers of land in the territory.

The profitability of Yukon’s minerals, along with its highly lucrative tourism—much of it from adventure-seeking Germans—means that the otherwise largely isolated territory receives substantial traffic from the outside. Mining companies rely on highways linking the territory to its neighbors, including Alaska. Flooding in mid June of this year caused consternation for both truckers hauling tungsten and gold and residents who were used to dining at Tim Hortons and eating imported food items.

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Food-Cost Protests in Northern Canada

Major protests against the high price of food and economic insecurity more generally were held last weekend in the remote northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, inhabited mostly by Inuit (“Eskimo”) people. Organized on Facebook, the “Feed My Family” campaign has attracted roughly a third of Nunavut’s population.  A recent study found that some “three-quarters of Inuit preschoolers live in food-insecure homes, and that “half of youths 11 to 15 years old sometimes go to bed hungry.” Food is exorbitantly expensive in Nunavut because almost all of it must be brought in over vast distances from southern Canada or elsewhere. As a result, a single head of cabbage can cost as much as twenty dollars.

Nunavut is a vast territory, roughly the size of Mexico, but it contains only about 32,000 people, some 84 percent of whom are Inuit. Traditional hunting, fishing and gathering practices are still carried out and contribute to feeding the population, but most of the people of the region are now dependent on imported food. Hunting, moreover, now demands modern inputs, and hence is itself an expensive proposition. According the article cited above:

Nunavut’s larder of “country food” — caribou, seals, fish and other animals — is there for the taking, but only if people can afford the snowmobiles, gas, rifles, ammunition and gear needed to travel safely. Elliott estimates hunting costs about $150 a day.

Although a poor region by Canadian standards, Nunavut does possess a large array of natural resources, and mining activities in the territory are increasing. Currently the Canadian government is negotiating with territorial leaders to allow Nunavut to have “province-like” powers over local resource development and to collect mining royalties directly. As a recent National Post article emphasizes, “Mining companies spent more than $300 million in 2011 alone on exploration and development in the territory…”  Yet the same article also notes that “years of negotiations are likely to follow.”

Many Inuit leaders support mining in their territory, but most insist that their community should have substantial input in the development process. Most of their efforts in this regard are carried out through Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., a native corporation designed to “ensure that promises made under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) are carried out. Inuit exchanged Aboriginal title to all their traditional land in the Nunavut Settlement Area for the rights and benefits set out in the NLCA.” In April of this year, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. “received the first royalty payment as a result of mineral production on Inuit Owned Lands. The royalty payment of $2,249,500 was made by Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. from its Meadowbank Gold Mine north of Baker Lake.”

 

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Mining Scars & Smokestacks: Industrial Topography Illustrated in Google Earth

Our Geocurrentcast this week, aims to illustrate some of the most awe-inspriing images of the impact of industrialization. This week’s Google Earth tour looks at man’s physical impact on the surface of the earth through our thirst for mining ore, gold, boron, diamonds, uranium salt, natural gas, oil, and even the wind.

The tour takes time to stop with the army of Alexander the Great at the Khewra Salt Mines of Pakistan, resists Pinochet at El Teniente and El Chuquicama in Chile, and adds an extra karat of guilt to your grandfather’s wedding ring during its stop at the hand dug mines of South Africa.

The goal of this tour is to instill a deeper curiosity on issues extraction, energy use, consumption, land reclamation and industrialization through satellite illustration.


To view this tour, first download Google Earth.

Next, download the tour as a KMZ file, and double click the movie icon the places menu of Google Earth to play the tour.

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