Board joins Selwyn court case

Liard First Nation Chief Liard McMillan's fight against the Selwyn mine development in Howard's Pass just got harder.

Liard First Nation Chief Liard McMillan’s fight against the Selwyn mine development in Howard’s Pass just got harder.

Following a decision by the Yukon Supreme Court, McMillan will now have to convince the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board his petition against the mine is sound.

Monday, Justice Ronald Veale added the board as a party to the case and included its online registry on the project as evidence.

McMillan opposes the Yukon government’s approval of the development, and filed papers against it on December 6.

His petition claims the evaluation report is flawed, and asks the development to be delayed until the alleged deficiencies are fixed.

The First Nation was not requesting any remedy from the environmental and socio-economic assessment board and claimed the territory could properly represent any needs under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

Not so, said Veale, ruling the petition was a direct attack on the board’s practices.

As well, Veale cited his own recent ruling involving Western Copper Corporation as clarification, stating the board is completely independent from government with its own expertise and perspective.

The First Nation argued the case would be more expensive with the board involved, and might impact its view of the First Nation in the future if it were to be involved in the case.

Veale sympathized with both points, but rejected them.

“YESAB can make submissions in a moderate and respectful way and maintain its impartiality in the process.”

The role of the board and concerns over impartiality were valid, he said, but there are concerns of broader public interest that require a full exploration, not just discussion between parties.

By giving it full respondent status, Veale has given the board the right to appeal any future decisions, among other things.

The development in question is an underground exploration program that would move up to 200,000 tonnes of rock. It is located 160 kilometres northwest of Ross River and may be operating for 10 years.

It is believed to be one of the world’s largest unexploited zinc, lead and silver deposits, but the Liard First Nation is concerned it will pollute the surrounding watershed.