Kenyon on another China junket

Economic Development Minister Jim Kenyon is once again China-bound with a host of Yukon-focused mining companies in tow.

Economic Development Minister Jim Kenyon is once again China-bound with a host of Yukon-focused mining companies in tow.

Only three weeks ago, it was announced that a much-praised Chinese investment in the Yukon had fallen flat, yet mining companies with recent offers of Chinese investment have praised government-sponsored trade missions, which can foster valuable personal relationships with foreign officials.

In March, Premier Dennis Fentie touted a $19.4-million investment by China-based Hunan Nonferrous Metals Corporation as proof that the “hard work by our minister has paid off.”

Fentie was referring to a $19.4-million exclusive-share agreement between Northern Tungsten and Hunan Nonferrous Metals that would have gone towards the development of Northern Tungsten’s Mactung Project located 230 kilometres northeast of Ross River.

In June, Northern Tungsten cancelled the agreement with Hunan after the company missed numerous closing deadlines.

“While we certainly hope to work with Hunan Nonferrous in the future, the duration of the approval process has been too prolonged,” said Northern Tungsten Chairman and CEO Stephen Leahy in a release.

On October 1, in an address to the Opportunities North Conference in Whitehorse, Fentie once again highlighted the Hunan investment.

“This is but one example of how our work and investment-attraction efforts have led to new investment capital,” he said.

“Will the minister of Economic Development tell Yukoners what happened? Why did this $19-million investment go bust on his watch?” said Liberal economic critic Don Inverarity in the legislature on Wednesday — the eve of Kenyon’s departure.

Kenyon responded with a new scorecard of successful foreign investments.

China Mining Resources Group Limited recently purchased 18,770,500 shares in Selwyn Resources, a BC-based company with lead and zinc interests in eastern Yukon.

The Selwyn shares were purchased in the open market, a transaction that would have had “no involvement whatsoever” from Yukon government sources, said Jasmin TamDoo, manager of investment communications for Selwyn Resources.

However, Kenyon’s presence in China may have helped the purchase.

“An introduction two years ago may seem insignificant, but in reality it may have actually opened the door for a company such as ourselves to have a senior person’s ear at a major Chinese mining company,” said TamDoo.

“Whereas before, they may not have been as open to a meeting,” she added.

In July, Jinduicheng Molybdenum Group, a Chinese company, purchased Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine Project — a silver-zinc-copper-lead-gold project 200 kilometres northeast of Watson Lake — for $87 million.

“I think it’s very clear that in the case of Jinduicheng, there’s a reasonably high probability that we would have never met them if it had not been for that introduction,” said Harlan Meade, former president and CEO of Yukon Zinc.

Meade is now the CEO of Selwyn Resources, and was hours away from joining Kenyon on his current Chinese trade mission.

In late August, the Tagish Lake Gold Corporation accepted an offer of $5 million of financing from Yukon-Shaanxi Mining Company Inc., another Chinese firm.

Their agreement — yet to be solidified — occurred after 14 independent trips to China.

In the legislature, Kenyon twice indicated that his trips to China bested similar trade missions by previous Liberal governments because “they went over during the Chinese holidays and found the offices closed,” said Kenyon.

Previous China tours have cost “around $45,000,” said Kenyon in previous interviews.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com