Casino hits pause on mine assessment

Casino Mining Corp. has agreed to put assessment of its massive copper-gold mine on hold to allow for additional consultation with the Little/Salmon Carmacks First Nation.

Casino Mining Corp. has agreed to put assessment of its massive copper-gold mine on hold to allow for additional consultation with the Little/Salmon Carmacks First Nation.

The First Nation launched a lawsuit earlier this year, alleging that the company had not conducted the required consultation before submitting its proposal to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

“The duty to consult with Little Salmon/Carmacks before the YESAB process starts is a fundamental legal and treaty obligation,” said Chief Eric Fairclough in a statement in April.

“This isn’t just lip service – we bargained for these rights in our final agreement, and we can’t allow YESAB and Casino mines to just go through the motions. It must be meaningful, and our community’s rights must be respected.”

Now the company and the First Nation have agreed to a six-month consultation plan to resolve the outstanding issues.

The assessment board, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, and the Selkirk First Nation have also agreed to hit pause on the assessment.

Gregory McDade, the lawyer for Little Salmon/Carmacks, called the agreement a “reasonably amicable settlement” of the First Nation’s concerns.

“Little Salmon/Carmacks achieved what they wanted to achieve, which is to protect their treaty rights and to ensure that this process is done right.”

He noted that the situation does not indicate the First Nation’s support or lack of support for the Casino mine project itself. Instead, the concern was primarily to assert the First Nation’s rights regarding the consultation process.

The lawsuit is also on hold for six months, said McDade.

If the First Nation is satisfied after that time that its concerns have been addressed, the lawsuit will be dropped, he said. If not, it will continue.

Paul West-Sells, president of Casino Mining Corp., said the company does not believe the pause will delay the project.

“We’re still feeling comfortable that we would be in a position to start construction in 2016.”

Full production is scheduled to begin in 2019.

The company has yet to secure the $2.5 billion it needs to get the project off the ground.

“We’re not aggressively pursuing that at this point in time,” said West-Sells.

The company will start looking for financing partners when the project is further along in the assessment process, he said.

Community support “in the Yukon is key, I think, for bringing a mine of this magnitude forward,” said West-Sells. “We had a little hiccup there but I think we’re on the right track now.”

The proposed open-pit mine is located about 150 kilometres northwest of Carmacks.

It is by far the largest mine proposal that the Yukon has ever seen.

The plan is to process 120,000 tonnes per day over a 22-year mine life.

By comparison, Capstone Mining Corp.‘s Minto mine currently processes under 4,000 tonnes per day.

The project would employ 1,000 people during construction and 600 people during operation, generating $274 million in economic activity for the Yukon annually, according to the company.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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