Peel playback at First Nations resource conference

Mining companies attending this year's Yukon First Nations Resource Conference said they respect First Nations' wishes to stay out of the Peel River watershed.

Mining companies attending this year’s Yukon First Nations Resource Conference said they respect First Nations’ wishes to stay out of the Peel River watershed.

“The environment is not for sale,” Chief Simon Mervyn of the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun told delegates attending the third annual conference in Whitehorse on Tuesday morning.

“And economic necessity will not supersede environmental destruction. Our position is clear. Industry and the corporate world have got to realize that First Nations are adamant about land protection,” said Mervyn, who spoke up during a panel discussion on First Nation relations with the mining industry.

Rob Carpenter, CEO and co-founder of Kaminak Resources, agreed.

“Our philosophy – corporately, and mine personally – is always to go where you’re wanted,” said Carpenter.

“We don’t want to go into restricted areas, controversial areas, for example, the Peel. We’re not interested in going up there and staking claims or being involved in that area whatsoever.

“We take our direction from … our shareholders. They don’t want us to go to controversial areas. But I don’t speak for the industry.”

After his lunch address to the conference, Premier Darrell Pasloski was asked whether mining companies’ support for First Nations’ wishes to protect the Peel would change his government’s stance at all.

“I think we’ve clearly defined where we need to go,” he said. “What we’re doing is a process that was agreed to by the four affected First Nations. That’s the process that we’re in. No decisions have been made at this time and I think that’s what’s important.”

Mervyn also brought up the idea of airships.

“Our First Nation is not opposed to development at all but we want it done carefully,” he said.

The chief listed examples of military work being done on the “lighter-than-air” ships capable of carrying extreme weights, as well as a German tourism industry based on the ships.

“In our perspective, that could eliminate a lot of environmental destruction in regards to bulldozers going where they shouldn’t be,” Mervyn said.

“You can go over and get to your claims in another way. In a conceptual vision this is possible, with careful planning,” he said.

Carpenter supported that idea, citing examples in northern Manitoba and eastern Nunavut as a testament to the technology’s success in cold temperatures.

“Certainly we’d be open to it,” he said, noting that Transport Canada would have to regulate it first. “It sounds like it’s a lot cheaper. No one wants to build roads.”

Chief Eddie Taylor, of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, also sat on the panel Tuesday.

“We need more people like Rob in the Yukon, engaging with First Nations,” he said in his opening address. “That would make the mining industry – outside the Peel watershed – very favourable for all of us.”

The Peel, while not an identified topic on the agenda, was a common conversation piece at the conference, which also offered a student job fair for the mining sector.

Proactive engagement was also a major talking point.

In 2011, the Ross River Dena Council asked the Yukon courts to require the territory and mining companies to consult with it before any claims are granted in its traditional territory.

Carpenter noted his company’s efforts to meet with the Tr’ondek Hewch’in government early on in its exploration work in the White Gold area, about 130 kilometres south of Dawson City.

The two have developed a healthy and co-operative relationship, filled with elder tours and community events, despite still not having signed a formal agreement, he said.

But Carpenter admits “proactive” comes after the stakes have been driven in the ground.

“That’s a tough one,” said Carpenter, noting Ross River Dena’s case. “From a business perspective, we come out with a strategy, but what if someone finds out about it? It’s very secret. Once you say specifically where (you are staking), you run the risk of someone scooping you because it’s a pretty competitive business.”

Carpenter would be open to a general “heads up” before staking claims, he said.

A discussion on general locations may be enough to notify First Nations, while also feeling out their attitude toward the area and exploration in general, he said.

“If it’s negative, I’m not going to push that,” he said. “There are enough areas in the world where they do want guys like me so I’m going to go there.”

Early communication could also help First Nations better understand the mining process and industry, said Carpenter.

A fear of staking can be unnecessarily exaggerated, he said.

“Staking a claim doesn’t really mean a whole lot,” he said.

“I think a First Nation may look at a claim as automatically becoming a mine, but the reality is that the odds are 10,000 to one.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

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


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read