Miners urge federal minister to compromise with First Nations

A second Yukon mining company is urging the Canadian government to rethink amendments to Yukon's environmental assessments laws to avoid further conflict with First Nations. Eira Thomas, president of Kaminak Gold Corp.

A second Yukon mining company is urging the Canadian government to rethink amendments to Yukon’s environmental assessments laws to avoid further conflict with First Nations.

Eira Thomas, president of Kaminak Gold Corp., wrote to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt in late November.

“The goal of regulatory reform is to improve on the existing process and provide additional clarity and harmony,” she wrote.

“Regulatory reform that creates tension between governments does not achieve these goals. Instead, it creates a climate of uncertainty, mistrust and confrontation.”

The company is currently working on a feasibility study for its Coffee gold project, 130 kilometres south of Dawson City.

Kaminak has a strong relationship with Tr’ondek Hwech’in and is reaching out to other First Nations that may be affected by the project, Thomas wrote in the letter.

“We believe in early and meaningful engagement and strive to build partnerships with the First Nations we work with,” she wrote.

First Nations have opposed four proposed amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act that they say undermine the spirit and intent of their final agreements with Canada and Yukon.

Those would give the federal minister new powers to give binding policy orders to the assessment board, give that minister powers to delegate responsibility to the territorial minister, allow a decision body to determine if a project needs to undergo a review in the event of a change to the project or licence renewal, and set overall assessment timelines for projects.

The bill to amend the act has reached second reading in Parliament.

Kaminak is the second Yukon mining company to voice concerns that the amendments will do more harm than good.

Casino Mining Corp., which plans to build the giant $2.5 billion Casino copper gold mine, has also urged Valcourt to come back to the table and compromise with First Nations.

In Kaminak’s letter, Thomas urges the minister to negotiate with First Nations towards the goal of reaching consensus on the controversial amendments.

“The five-year review resulted in a number of recommendations, most of which the First Nations fully supported,” wrote Thomas.

“That in itself is an impressive accomplishment. This should have been a time for celebration for everyone in the Yukon. Instead, four of the amendments put forward by the federal government stand to unravel the effort and successes achieved through the collaboration during the five-year review.”

Valcourt upset First Nations last week when he told them they don’t meet the definition of governments under their final land claims agreements.

He later dug in his heels under questioning in Parliament, saying “that was not the deal concluded.”

Premier Darrell Pasloski and MP Ryan Leef have both said they disagree with the minister’s interpretation.

Pasloski promised to contact Valcourt directly and ask him to correct the record.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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