Kaska cut off oil and gas

The Liard First Nation is closing off southeastern Yukon from any further oil and gas development.

The Liard First Nation is closing off southeastern Yukon from any further oil and gas development.

In a press release Monday, the unsigned aboriginal government announced an “indefinite moratorium” on any new oil and gas development in their traditional territory because of an “unforeseen downturn in relations with the Yukon territorial government.”

Chief Liard McMillan listed several issues where it and the territory’s relationship has turned sour.

The Faro mine reclamation project is one example. First Nations claim the territory has been mismanaging the project by not allowing aboriginal groups any authority and by granting big contracts to Outside companies.

McMillan also mentions parcels of land that have been protected because the First Nation selected them during its land claim negotiations. Those negotiations, which lasted for nearly a decade, ended without an agreement in the early 2000s.

The Liard First Nation is now one of three Yukon First Nations that do not have a land claim or self-government agreement. The protection over the parcels of land they selected is set to expire in 2013.

“The premier and (Energy, Mines and Resources) minister have refused to meet with Kaska chiefs on important matters,” said McMillan in the release. “There has been refusal to engage seriously with us on a range of broad important mutual interests.”

The First Nation refers to a clause in the territory’s Oil and Gas Act that states the government cannot issue any new oil and gas dispositions in a Yukon First Nation’s traditional territory until the aboriginal group gives consent, or until its final agreement takes effect.

The First Nation would welcome the revenue and jobs that would flow from further oil and gas work, but it won’t consider this until the territory resolves long-standing issues, the release said. And forcing the First Nation to sign a land claim will not work, said McMillan.

The Kaska group believes the area could put “hundreds of millions of royalties in the hands of Canada and (the Yukon government) and create many jobs” and it claims the area is “the most sought after Yukon area by industry, especially since companies like Apache have made major discoveries just across the border in B.C.”

The only oil and gas field in the Yukon, called the Kotaneelee, was discovered in 1977 in the Kaska’s traditional territory. It is now 34 years old and has seen diminished production after water seeped into the natural gas reservoir in 2005.

In October 2011, Devon Energy, which owns 70 per cent of the field, said the Kotaneelee has been put on the back burner.

“In Canada, it’s a small part of a very large amount of assets we own,” said Nadine Barber from Devon Energy. “It’s not unimportant, just small.”

Overall in Canada, the corporation produces about 200,000 barrels of oil and natural gas a day. The Kotaneelee provides less than five per cent of that, she said.

And the corporation doesn’t have any plans on drilling new rigs or expanding the Kotaneelee anytime soon, she added.

Because of the Kotaneelee, the area is “production ready,” the First Nation’s release notes -“unlike the Eagle Plains Basin and the Whitehorse Trough.”

Resources Minister Brad Cathers didn’t respond to interview requests before press time.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at