Don’t hide political risk from mining investors, says chief

The Yukon government is branding the territory a zero-political-risk zone for global mining investors because of extensive settled land claims.

The Yukon government is branding the territory a zero-political-risk zone for global mining investors because of extensive settled land claims.

And that has the Liard First Nation, one of the three First Nations without a land claim, crying foul.

“They make no mention of outstanding land claims with the Kaska,” said Chief Liard McMillan, who represents one of two Kaska First Nations in the territory.

The government’s aggressive courtship of mineral investment relies on an assumption the territory has a smooth regulatory and political process. The Yukon’s new flashy web portal for mining interests, miningyukon.com, touts, “Settled Land Claims and Regulatory Certainty,” as an advantage for interested financiers.

And while investors wouldn’t have to worry about a land claim in most of the territory, a sizable chunk of the Southeast Yukon is still far from having complete political certainty.

At the moment, the Liard First Nation is embroiled in a court case over the Hyland property. Last year, Stratagold earned approval from the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to dig and lay down trails without any consultation from the First Nation.

Now, Liard First Nation is demanding an order revoking the approval. It also wants a declaration no regulatory approval be granted without adequate consultation, and a statement Energy, Mines and Resources breached its procedural and constitutional duty to consult with it.

That’s the kind of fight investors should be ready for if they’re not consulted, said McMillan.

And investors might not realize how important it is to consult if the government is telling them land claims are a done deal in the territory, he said.

McMillan couldn’t provide an example of a specific government official telling investors the Kaska traditional territory presents zero political risk. But he does note the territory’s presentations at the annual meeting of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and the mineral Roundup in Vancouver promote settled land claims as a reason to invest.

“The general sense they’ve been giving to the mining community is that the Yukon as a whole is open for business and that the land claims issue is fine in that there is certainty,” said McMillan.

The government’s web portal does distinguish between First Nations with and without land claims, so there is no explicit attempt to sweep political risk under the rug.

The Kaska traditional territory has many exploration and development projects; Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine is set for production this summer, Selwyn Resources’ Howard’s Pass property has recently attracted heavy investors and North American Tungsten’s MacTung project remains a promising play.

On a related note, the government has refused to invite First Nations on mining junkets, like Economic Development Minister Jim Kenyon’s numerous flights to Asia, said McMillan.

He’s written to Kenyon, Premier Dennis Fentie and several deputy and assistant deputy ministers requesting a partnership.

“They’ve basically ignored our requests to be with them on these trade missions,” he said.

But the First Nation isn’t being shut out of all mining activity.

McMillan made no mention of his appointment to the advisory board of Northern Tiger Resources during an interview Thursday. News of the appointment was released on Friday morning, and McMillan could not be reached for comment before press time.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com