Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.

Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

The Yukon government has rejected ATAC Resources’ proposal for an access road to the company’s Tiger Gold Deposit northeast of Keno City.

The stated reasons include opposition expressed by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun (FNNND), who were concerned during consultation about the impacts of a four-season road into the undeveloped area.

“We are extremely disappointed with, and surprised by this decision,” said president and CEO Graham Downs in a statement.

“This was an application for a private, single-lane, gravel and controlled-access road in an area with existing winter trail access. If this road can’t be permitted following a positive environmental and socio-economic assessment decision and years of governmental encouragement to invest in the project, then you have to wonder if Yukon is in fact open for business,” he said.

The company said they are consulting legal advice and won’t be commenting further.

ATAC has proposed that the all-season 65-kilometre tote road is essential to accessing the area. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Board issued a conditional approval in March of 2018.

The Tiger Gold Deposit is part of the larger Rackla Gold Project located within the Beaver River Watershed. It is all located within the traditional lands to the FNNND, but the proposed road skirted Settlement A lands.

In the legislative assembly on Dec. 1, Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent criticized the decision and accused the Liberals of “stringing along the company for three years” before turning down the proposal.

“It demonstrates that currently, there’s a climate of distrust in the mining industry of this government. It is extremely concerning when you see the CEO of a major mining company indicate that it seems like the Yukon is closed,” said Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon.

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai said the company will have an “opportunity to improve their application” and reapply.

Kent said in addition to the rejection of the application, the government failed to meet deadlines for the company.

“I know that one of the things that has been a challenge throughout the fall of this year and in the spring is ensuring that you meet consultation obligations, within a COVID reality. We’ve strived in every instance to do that,” said Pillai.

Pillai cited opposition by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun as a primary reason for the decision. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the First Nation and the Yukon government planned four consultations over the year, including two in Mayo and two in Whitehorse.

Concerns from citizens of the First Nation included that the road would permanently alter an untouched portion of the traditional territory, would encroach too closely on Settlement A lands and contribute to citizens feeling “a loss of control” in relation to mining in the area.

The amount of road to be constructed and its quality are also “unprecedented” under a Class 3 exploration program, according to the document. The document notes that only three full exploration seasons remain under the approved application, which expires August 2024.

“Approval of the Application would be in breach of the honour of the Crown and would be seen as a betrayal of FNNND people and leave the impacts of the Road on its aboriginal and treaty rights and Traditional Territory entirely unaddressed and unaccommodated,” reads the note in the decision document.

Asked about the conditional approvals the company received in 2017, Pillai said because the company is seeking legal counsel he would not comment.

“Once that gets stated it’s more difficult to get into a broader dialogue at this point,” he said. “So I would say that their application, in the end, the application didn’t meet the threshold.”

CPAWS Yukon applauded the decision.

In addition to cultural concerns regarding First Nation land, the conservation group said the road cuts through habitat for moose, grizzly bears and salmon in addition to other species.

“This decision makes it possible to develop a land use plan for the Beaver River Watershed that’s right for the region, respects the connections people have to it, and safeguards land and water for wildlife,” said Randi Newton, conservation manager with CPAWS Yukon.

Contact Haley Ritchie at

Environmental assessmentminingYukon government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read