A placer miner insists he misunderstood the regulations when he built 21 kilometres of trail in Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation traditional territory without any authorization last summer.
Nicolai Goeppel is accused of breaching one section of the territory’s Forest Resources Act and three land use regulations.
He is scheduled alongside Kluane Drilling Limited to appear in court today in Carmacks for the charges to be officially read in.
In an interview with the News, Goeppel insisted he didn’t think he was doing anything illegal at the time.
Part of the trail he built follows an existing trail, he said.
The trail was built to reach a claim Goeppel had the rights for.
“It was a series of misinterpretations of the regulations,” he said. “Since it was an old CAT road I didn’t think it was an issue.”
He also questioned why Kluane Drilling was charged, since he was the one who contracted them to do the work.
Goeppel said he met with two councillors from the LSCFN and apologized when he realized he was in the wrong.
But speaking to the News Tuesday, LSCFN Chief Eric Fairclough sounded unimpressed.
“In my view, they did it knowing full well this was not allowed to be done without going through the proper process,” Fairclough said.
The proper process would have been to go through the territory’s environmental and socio-economic assessment board, YESAB, he said.
“It’s totally unacceptable for anyone to assume they can go and cross a First Nation site, plow over a trapper trail… and to haul equipment without having any authority to do any such work on that piece of land by EMR (the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources) or the lands department,” he said. “This mining outfit, Goeppel, and Kluane Drilling, I know they know better.”
Goeppel initially said his mistake was to go in with the equipment before the lease for his claim had been approved. In a subsequent interview he said he recognized he should have gone through YESAB.
Goeppel first came to the public’s attention when he sought to develop 45 placer mining claims at Judas Creek near Marsh Lake.
Concerns from residents and First Nations over the impact on wildlife led YESAB to recommend the project be denied, which the government did.
Goeppel said he is considering leaving the territory.
“With my experience in the Yukon, I don’t think I’m going to waste another dollar (here).”
He took issue with Fairclough characterizing his action as “a black mark” on the industry.
“What industry do we have up here besides government?” he said.
He lamented the lack of support for placer miners like himself, talking about corruption in government and the fight he constantly has to wage.
“(But) that’s not what everybody wants, they want the Yukon turned into a park, see the transfer payments keep coming in, and the government jobs growing,” he said.
“I’d like to see the Yukon stand on its two feet.”
Fairclough said the First Nation is not going “to let that one go.”
“There are lots of wrongs that happened here,” he said. “The government needs to look at this as a very serious matter.”
Under the Forest Resources Act, Goeppel could face up to two years in jail and be fined up to $200,000.
Calls to Kluane Drilling Limited were not returned by press time this morning.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org