Resource extractors woo Na Cho Nyak Dun

a-Cho Nyak Dun citizens will benefit from two new mining exploration co-operation agreements, say the two resource companies involved.

a-Cho Nyak Dun citizens will benefit from two new mining exploration co-operation agreements, say the two resource companies involved.

The agreements with StrataGold Corporation and Alexco Resource Corp. are long on commitments and short on guarantees.

Both suggest they will employ and create business opportunities for Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens. In return, the First Nation must support exploration efforts in its traditional territory.

But the commitments are “best effort” provisions, meaning there are no actual guarantees.

Exploration doesn’t leave a company with a cash flow, so it makes no sense to sign guarantees before extraction begins, said StrataGold’s Mark Ayranto, vice-president corporate development.

“Once you get into production, then you’ll see guarantees,” he said.

With the commitments, the company is working on employment prospects — it’s advertising jobs in the community — and business opportunities.

But there no specifics yet, said Ayranto.

On environmental protection, the company is offering citizens the chance to review exploration plans and attend site tours.

StrataGold expects to spend $5 million in the Mayo region this year. It has a 20-person crew working a couple drills in the area from May to October.

“We’re in the community of Mayo — where many Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens live — working and spending money,” said Ayranto.

The agreement covers any exploration in the area, including StrataGold’s Dublin Gulch, Clear Creek and Aurex properties in the Mayo mining district.

At Dublin Gulch, the company estimates it has a couple million ounces of gold in the ground, said Ayranto.

Recognizing the rights of a First Nation seems like the first step any mining industry company would take, and StrataGold has already been working in traditional territory for four years.

StrataGold entered into discussions with Na-Cho Nyak Dun eight months ago.

The company has always had a positive, informal relationship with the First Nation, said Ayranto.

“We’ve been very proactive — this agreement is a natural progression of that,” he said.

In the agreement, Na-Cho Nyak Dun supports StrataGold’s exploration and development efforts.

In turn, StrataGold recognizes the First Nation’s rights and title of its traditional territory.

The first agreement signed between Na-Cho Nyak Dun and a mining or exploration company establishes long-term commitments to creating employment and business opportunities for the First Nation.

The agreement is a precursor to a development deal if StrataGold moves ahead with extraction.

It’ll help smooth the regulation process if StrataGold starts producing in the area, said Ayranto.

“Anytime you have an agreement in place with a community and First Nation, it helps advance the discussion,” he said.

Vancouver-based Alexco has also announced its co-operation agreement with Na-Cho Nyak Dun.

The similar deal between the First Nation and Alexco could restart silver mining at the Keno Hill site, one of 40 former silver mines owned by the company in the area.

Again, commitments are made in the co-operation deal, but actual guarantees are not.

The deal is critical to development of mining in the area and provides certainty for the Keno Hill mine site, according to the company.

It’s a foundation for future agreements that could include employment and business-opportunity guarantees if a mine started producing.

Alexco’s financial incentives such as scholarships for the First Nation and the funding for a co-ordinator with Na-Cho Nyak Dun are outlined.

The two agreements show the Na-Cho Nyak Dun leadership is willing to conduct business for the benefit of its community, said Ayranto.

“We’d like to work closer with the community and the Na-Cho Nyak Dun administration specifically,” he said.

Na-Cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn and Alexco Resource Corp. could not be reached for comment.