Several years ago the Yukon introduced a new environmental and community license assessment regime under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act including establishment of a Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (“YESAB”). In May 2010, after successfully complying with the requirements of that Act and getting the green light from YESAB for its Carmacks copper project, Western Copper Corporation encountered an unexpected obstacle in the form of a refusal by the Yukon Water Board to grant Western Copper a water licence for the project. This was the first time in 30 years that a water licence had been denied when the project had successfully navigated the other regulatory hurdles. The decision is currently under appeal, but meantime the denial created great uncertainty for the outcome of future projects.
The next project to apply for a water licence was the Bellenko project of Alexco Resource Corp., in the historic Keno Hill silver district. The Water Board’s decision on the Western Copper application made it clear that the Board, in deciding whether or not to issue a water licence, felt obligated to consider thoroughly the impact of the project on the receiving environment, including reconsideration of matters that had already been considered and adjudicated by YESAB. As Alexcos’ counsel, Michelle Pockey and Kevin O’Callaghan of Fasken’s Vancouver office were able to anticipate and address the Water Board’s concerns and assist Alexco in obtaining the required licence.
The moral of the story is that you can’t take anything for granted these days but if you anticipate and understand the regulator's concerns, then you will likely succeed.