Thank you for that opportunity.
I will just preface my comments. It probably would be important to know that Yukon's mineral exploration industry has been a primary driver of Yukon's private sector GDP growth over the course of a century—ever since the Klondike gold rush—and continues to be the largest sector employer of indigenous people, as well as supporting the quality of life that we've come to enjoy.
Having prefaced those comments, I think it's important to note that in Canada's north, given the remoteness of our mineral deposits, it's an energy-intensive industry that has very little option for fuel-switching opportunities. If we talk grassroots exploration, there are roads—Yukon has a number of roads—but to get to an actual mine site requires, for a grassroots prospector, lots of driving and lots of ATV exploration. It's difficult to get in and out of these remote areas, including with our junior exploration companies with helicopter costs and various other fuel costs. They really have little choice except to say whether we go ahead with that project this year or not. It makes a big difference.
Then, more close to home, I'd like to talk about the quartz mining companies. We have, or had, one operating quartz mine in Yukon, which has recently announced that it is going to go into care and maintenance as of last week. We understand that a couple of hundred employees will be laid off over the course of the coming month. Given that we're on the front lines of implementation of a carbon pricing regime here in January, we're concerned about what that means, not only for the current operation, of which there will be none now.... There will be two mines in care and operation, one of which is Capstone's Minto mine, a copper mine just north of Carmacks, and another one is the Alexco's silver mine just north of Mayo in the Keno Hill district.
When I say all of that, I want to also go back to levelling the playing field. There is a report we co-comissioned with the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada, Engineers Canada, as well as the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines, that quantified the increased costs of operating in Canada's north. As I indicated earlier in my presentation, it's six times higher for explorers and two and a half times higher for operating gold mines compared with our southern counterparts. That self delineation is simply the 60th parallel.
I just want to say that with this increased cost, when mines are shutting down and when employees are being laid off, this is probably the least opportune time to introduce a new tax in our jurisdiction.