Paddlers stop at a creek alongside the blue waters of the Snake River - directly across from Chevron's Crest iron ore leases.
The Peel Watershed is vital to the First Nations who regard it as part of their cultural homeland. Canadians nationwide and people the world over value this irreplaceable and pristine northern wilderness which could become a global conservation legacy. Yet its future may be profoundly influenced by one corporation: Chevron.
Chevron is the fifth largest oil company in the world, with its headquarters in San Ramon, California. Canadian operations are managed by Chevron Canada in Calgary, Alberta. Chevron promises to conduct business in a socially responsible and ethical manner, respecting universal human rights, protecting the environment, and benefiting the communities where it works. The Peel provides an excellent opportunity for Chevron to live up to the principles it espouses.
Mining is a small and diminishing fraction of Chevron's global interests, which in Canada focus on off-shore oil and gas in the Arctic and Atlantic regions. Still, Chevron Canada manages a large block of 525 iron-ore leases known as the Crest Deposit, located along the lower Snake River in the Peel watershed. [map of lease area]
A young hiker looks over the creek valley where an open-pit iron ore mine could be developed ,unless Chevron relinquishes the leases to conservation.
While some have touted the Crest Deposit as financially promising, it remains an economic gamble. As former Chevron Canada president Mark Nelson noted in 2009: "Development of the Crest iron ore deposit would face enormous economic difficulties due to its remote location, lack of infrastructure and formidable terrain."
Moreover, developing the Crest Deposit would also fly in the face of what local people want for their future. The First Nations of the Peel have spoken clearly: they have asked that the Snake River and greater Peel watershed remain free of industrial development. The Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission recommends the Yukon's highest level of protection for the Snake watershed, where the Crest Deposit is located.
Two First Nations -- Nacho Nyak Dun and Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in -- invited Chevron to partner with them on protecting the Peel watershed:
"The lands and waters of the Peel watershed have unparalleled spiritual, cultural and ecological values that have sustained our people in body and spirit for thousands of years... We are determined to protect the Peel watershed from roads and industrial development.
We urge Chevron Corporation to demonstrate corporate leadership on human rights and the environment, and become our partner in protecting our lands and rivers in the Peel watershed."
The beautiful Snake River valley at the
Crest Iron Ore Leases
The Yukon Conservation Society (YCS) and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-Yukon) applaud the idea of Chevron giving up these leases to help clear the way for a protected area in the Peel watershed. That is the best way for Chevron to live up to the promises it has made concerning good corporate citizenship.
Chevron needs to understand people from throughout North America care deeply about protecting the clean waters, boreal forests and wildlife of the Peel watershed. The company has a responsibility to respect the wishes of the First Nations to conserve the lands and waters in their traditional territories.
Chevron has a choice - continue speculating on the Crest Deposit, or step up and prove it is an industry leader in global conservation and corporate stewardship. Conservation is the best path for Chevron to serve its responsibility to its shareholders.
The goodwill that Chevron would receive by making the right choice would far outweigh the uncertain value of continuing to pursue these risky, socially unacceptable mining leases.