Government won’t appeal decision to overturn mining licence

The Yukon government will have to consult further with White River First Nation before it decides if Tarsis Resources Inc. can do further exploration work near Beaver Creek.

The Yukon government will have to consult further with White River First Nation before it decides if Tarsis Resources Inc. can do further exploration work near Beaver Creek.

Early last month, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale overturned a government decision to give the junior mining company a Class 3 mining licence. It’s looking for gold, copper and silver in the First Nation’s traditional territory. The government granted the licence in September, after the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board recommended against it. The five-year licence would allow the company to use excavators and drilling rigs on the 1,280-hectare property. The licence would allow up to 10 helicopter flights a day into the area that doesn’t have road access. The board warned that all this could damage White River First Nation’s lands, water and traditional way of life. It could also harm the already-endangered Chisana caribou herd. Nothing could be done to reduce these impacts, the board wrote in its decision last year.

After the licence was approved, the First Nation sought a judicial review, saying it had not been properly consulted. The company stopped work at the site for this season, waiting for the government’s decision, company president and CEO Marc Blythe told the News last month.

Last month, Veale sided with the First Nation. The government did not consult fully with the First Nation before granting the licence, he said in the decision. A situation like this one calls for “deep and meaningful consultation,” he wrote in his decision. He ordered the government to do more consultation with the First Nation, at the government’s expense, before deciding whether or not to grant the licence.

The law gives the government 37 days to do consultation. But the government wanted to decide whether or not it would appeal the decision before beginning consultation, assistant deputy minister of justice Thomas Ullyett said last month. It had 30 days to make this decision.

The government has decided not to appeal Veale’s decision to overturn the licence, Dan Cable, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said this week in an email to the News. The government isn’t commenting further on the case. Cable wouldn’t give details about how this round of consultation will look any different from the previous round.

The 37-day consultation period is set to begin on Sept. 4. The government will have to pay all expenses. After consultation is finished, the government can decide whether or not to grant the licence.

Robert Freedman, the lawyer for the First Nation, described the government’s decision to not appeal the ruling a “positive development.” But the First Nation needs to be consulted properly, he said. It needs to be a “two-way street,” he said.

Both the government and the First Nation have to agree about what the consultation process will look like, he said.

White River First Nation is one of three First Nations in the territory without a land-claims agreement. But it still needs to be properly consulted, said Freedman.

“The common law applies across the country. It doesn’t stop at the Yukon border because there are three First Nations that haven’t signed treaties,” said Freedman.

Representatives from White River First Nation were not available for comment before press time.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com