Canada’s Yukon strives again to be a mining magnet

* Touts streamlined permitting process

* New projects expected to come online shortly

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, April 23 (BestGrowthStock) – The Klondike Gold Rush in
Canada’s Yukon Territory captured the world’s imagination in
the late 1800s, and today the Yukon is again pushing hard to
attract mining development.

“We have all-weather road access and we have access to two
deep-water ice-free ports; Skagway, Alaska, and Stewart,
British Columbia,” said Harvey Brooks, deputy minister of
economic development for the Far North territory.

“We have got control over our natural resources, while the
other two territories are still managed by the Government of
Canada,” said Brooks, who recently addressed a gathering in
Toronto hosted by the Yukon Gold Mining Alliance.

The Klondike Gold Rush drew miners from as far as South
Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It spawned numerous
books, songs and poems and was the setting of Charlie Chaplin’s
1925 classic “The Gold Rush”.

The glory days were short, however, and by the 1920s the
Yukon’s population had fallen to less than 5,000 after peaking
at about 40,000. Today, with a population of about 35,000, the
Yukon is aiming to be a winner in the latest global scramble
for natural resources.

It was recently rated No. 11 globally in an industry survey
that ranks the world’s top mining jurisdictions.

But the results of the annual Fraser Institute survey
indicate the territory still has room to improve as a magnet
for mining as it lags a number of Canadian provinces that have
better infrastructure facilities. Nevertheless, the Yukon’s
ranking has improved consistently over the last three years.

Most mining and energy projects across Canada need to pass
muster at both the provincial and federal levels, but the Yukon
has a simpler process managed solely by the Yukon Environmental
and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

“YESAB looks at every significant development that takes
place … Once you have gone through the YESAB process, that’s
it, you are good to go,” said Brooks, adding that the majority
of aboriginal groups in the territory have settled land claims,
making it easier for projects to move forward.

The territory has also revised its royalty regime and it
provides partial funding for early stage exploration projects.

TINTINA GOLD BELT

The Yukon is at the heart of the Tintina Gold Belt, a
200-kilometer (125-mile) wide, 1,200-kilometer long, arc
extending from northern British Columbia to southwest Alaska.

Tintina includes large gold deposits such as Sumitomo’s
(8503.T: ) Pogo mine and NovaGold’s (NG.TO: ) Donlin Creek
project.

Recent moves by Kinross Gold (K.TO: ), which owns the Fort
Knox mine in Alaska, indicate that the big Canadian gold miner
also is keen to increase its presence in the region.

Last month, Kinross agreed to acquire exploration company
Underworld Resources (UW.V: ) in a deal worth roughly $140
million. Underworld’s flagship asset is the White Gold project
in the Yukon.

Kinross also owns a sizable stake in Canadian junior
Victoria Gold Corp (VIT.V: ), which owns the Dublin Gulch
property in the territory.

Kinross’s moves have attracted the attention of other
miners, and a number of large players are now taking a closer
look at juniors with projects in the Yukon.

“Knowing who is phoning us and knowing who is phoning some
of the other companies out there, it’s great. There’s a whole
bunch of larger companies back in the Yukon and that’s great
for everybody,” said Sue Craig, chief executive of Northern
Freegold (NFR.V: ), a junior exploration company active in the
territory.

Northern Freegold has already signed confidentiality
agreements (CAs) with 10 companies that are interested in its
Freegold Mountain gold asset. The CAs are preliminary in nature
and there are no active discussions at this time around a sale
of the company or the asset. [ID:nN20124928]

MORE THAN GOLD

Roughly half the mining investment in the territory is
focused on gold exploration, with much of the remainder
concentrated on silver, copper and zinc.

“The only new base metal mine that will open up in North
America this year, will be in Yukon,” said Brooks, in reference
to the Wolverine zinc deposit owned by Chinese group Northwest
Nonferrous International Investment Co.

Canadian junior Alexco Resource (AXR.TO: ) is expected to
begin production at its Bellekeno silver-lead-zinc deposit in
the third quarter of 2010. Western Copper (WRN.TO: ) is
ramping-up exploration work at its Casino
gold-copper-molybdenum project in the territory.

With the exception of a dip due to the economic crisis in
2008, exploration and development spending in the Yukon has
continued grow since 2004 and is expected to rise again this
year with new projects in the pipeline.

“This year in the Yukon is going to be real exciting,”
Craig said. “There’s lots going on.”

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(Reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by Peter Galloway)

Canada’s Yukon strives again to be a mining magnet