A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Paul Christman, a former chief mine engineer with the Yukon government, has filed a lawsuit detailing grievances about how his employment came to an end.

Christman alleges he left his job after his employer stripped him of authority, ignored his job description and created a hostile work environment, making his resignation involuntary.

The suit alleges the conflict — which led to the end of Christman’s employment — began in April 2019. According to the notice of claim, Golden Predator Mining Corp. asked the department to confirm that it had a valid quartz mining license (QML) for the Brewery Creek Mine located near Dawson City.

According to documents filed with the Yukon government by Golden Predator, the gold mine in question operated from 1996 to 2001. It closed amid falling gold prices in 2002 and reclamation at the site began afterwards. Golden Predator purchased the mine in 2012 and according to them, infrastructure was left in place on site so the mine could resume operations again in the future.

The lawsuit states that in August 2019 Christman completed a financial security assessment of the project and found $12 million would be required to restart mining at the site based on the existing plan. The statement of claim alleges that in late August, Christman drafted a letter saying that an environmental assessment, a financial security assessment and an amendment to the QML would be required.

It goes on to allege that the draft letter was significantly edited after it was passed to the director of mineral resources, Christman’s supervisor. The notice of claim states that the requirement for an environmental assessment and amendment to the QML were removed from the letter before it was sent. The letter, which allegedly went out to Golden Predator, stated their QML was valid.

Christman also alleges that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources disregarded his assessment of the mine project, settling on financial security totalling $1 million with the company.

According to the Yukon government’s website, $1 million in security is currently held for the cost of reclaiming and closing the Brewery Creek mine site.

The company has submitted applications to renew Brewery Creek’s water license and QML, which both expire at the end of the year.

The water license renewal application states they plan to continue reclamation and environmental monitoring while planning developments which would allow them to bring it back into production.

Christman files anonymous concerns

Christman’s notice of claim states that in January of 2020, he was placed on a committee tasked with assessing permitting for the Brewery Creek Mine. Later that month, Christman, along with other employees, attended the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference. At the conference, referred to in court documents as “Roundup,” Christman alleges there were closed door meetings between representatives of Golden Predator, the Minister of Energy Mines and Resources, and the deputy minister and assistant deputy minister for Christman’s department. He states he was excluded from these meetings.

Prior to the conference, Christman says he raised concerns about a Golden Predator press release which made claims about the state of its water license. He claims he was discouraged from reporting his concerns by the director.

The notice of claim states that the weekend of the conference, Christman attended a professional development course where the head of mining at the BC Securities Commission (BCSC) was a presenter. He says the course highlighted his responsibility as a professional engineer to report potential material disclosure issues.

Christman filed an anonymous report with the BCSC containing his allegations that Golden Predator had not disclosed material information relating to the Brewery Creek project. He claims he did so using only publicly available documents and took necessary steps to protect the department.

Golden Predator eventually threatened a defamation suit against Christman, after another department submitted a report on the BCSC disclosures. Christman states he asked his superiors if the government would protect him in the event of a lawsuit and they did not confirm they would.

Lawsuit leads to involuntary resignation

Amid internal investigations into both the incident at the conference and the report made to the BCSC, Christman negotiated a temporary position with the Workers Compensation Board. He claims the director of his department first verbally consented to the reassignment before saying the department could not afford to let him go. Christman says he was also removed from all Golden Predator files.

Christman’s court filing states that the investigation caused him great stress and a diminished reputation within the mining industry and the Yukon government. The investigation would continue for months, from February to May 2020. Christman verbally resigned from his position with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on May 8, 2020.

According to the notice of claim, the Yukon government’s investigation concluded three days later, finding the allegations surrounding the incident at the Roundup conference unfounded. It also determined that Christman did not breach any Yukon government rules in making his report to the securities commission.

“Christman submits that he was constructively dismissed by the Department by having files removed from his purview and his removal from the committee,” the notice of claim reads.

Christman claims long-term fallout

The notice of claim mentions a $31,375 difference between his old job with energy, mines and resources and his new one with WCB.

Christman alleges that the fallout of his time with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources followed him to his new position with the Workers’ Compensation Board. After leaving for his new job, Christman was informed he would be receiving an annual bonus for 2019 which he claims was much lower than what he got in previous years or what was received by his peers.

Another issue from the past which Christman claims was raised after he left energy, mines and resources was a potential conflict of interest on WCB matters dealing with Golden Predator. He claims this issue led to conflict between him and the the Yukon’s Public Service Commissioner.

Christman claims he discussed the matter of indemnity from the possible lawsuit from Golden Predator with the commissioner in an August 2020 meeting. The commissioner followed up a few days later to tell Christman that he would have to declare his conflict of interest on anything Golden Predator related. Christman’s suit notes that WCB was set up to be separate from the Yukon government and also claims that he had already disclosed his conflict to his direct supervisor, director, and WCB’s legal counsel when he began his employment. Christman states that he did this despite his position that no conflict existed.

He claims he went on to disclose the alleged conflict to the President and CEO of WCB. Christman said after this, an investigation into him was initiated by WCB at the instruction of the commissioner.

“The commissioner’s actions initiating the complaint are retaliatory and deserving of a Punitive award,” the statement of claim reads.

Christman’s lawyer Mark Wallace said they will be seeking damages for breach of the employment contract totalling nine months pay from his last day with the department. They are also looking for punitive damages, pre- and post-judgement interest and repayment of Christman’s legal costs.

The allegations in the statement of claim have not been tested or proven in court.

The Yukon government declined to comment while the matter is before the courts.

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com

Yukon courts