For a company that wanted to set the record straight last week, Tagish Lake Gold Corporation has become awfully squirrelly about questions raised by an investigation underway by the Yukon Workers’ Compensation, Health and Safety Board.
Peter Torn, a lawyer with the company, won’t say whether the company recently received a stop-work order following a mine inspection.
Instead, he offered several confusing, contradictory evasions and eventually hung up the phone.
First, Torn claimed the company was unable to say whether part of its operations had been shuttered. That, he soon afterwards admitted, is false.
An investigation prevents the safety board from speaking to the matter, he noted. But that doesn’t stop the company from clearing the air, if it chose to do so.
“We choose not to,” said Torn, when pressed.
Asked again, Torn offered a new explanation. Incredibly, he claimed the company did not know if it had received a stop-work order.
“We don’t know anything about it,” he said.
Then he decided to end the interview. “There’s a current investigation and we’re not commenting on it. This ends the conversation,” Torn said, shortly before hanging up.
But not before he issued a warning. Torn didn’t appreciate being pushed to provide an answer, it seems.
“I’ll be forwarding my concerns to our lawyers concerning your behaviour,” he said.
Last week, CBC Radio reported Tagish Lake Gold’s operations had been shuttered following a visit by mine inspectors.
That’s untrue, Torn later told reporters. Exploratory surface drilling continues at the site, he said, prompting a clarification to be issued by the public broadcaster.
But Torn never spoke to work being conducted underground by the Vancouver-based mining junior at their property, 80 kilometres south of Whitehorse along the Wheaton River Valley.
According to a company news release, Tagish Lake Gold planned to drill underground this summer at its Mount Skukum and Goddell mines, which are both located on the property.
Asked whether underground work had been shut down, Torn wouldn’t say.
That’s strange, because he recently told the Whitehorse Star that they had suspended underground drilling. He didn’t tell them why.
Safety concerns are just one problem dogging the project.
Regulators have scolded its parent company, New Pacific Metals Corporation, for playing fast-and-loose with a technical report that describes the Tagish Lake project.
In July, the British Columbia Securities Commission chastised New Pacific Metals for issuing a technical report on the Tagish Lake project that ran afoul of national rules governing disclosures made by publicly listed mining companies.
New Pacific withdrew the report shortly afterwards and vowed to submit an improved report by mid-August. But it has yet to do so.
And there’s more. Rui Feng is the CEO and president of Tagish Lake Gold and New Pacific Metals. He’s also the boss of Silvercorp, a China-focused silver producer that’s become embroiled in a big controversy, following allegations that it has massively exaggerated its profits.
Feng has dismissed these allegations as “baseless,” but that hasn’t stopped Silvercorp’s stock from plunging, as investors brace themselves for what some fear may be a repeat of the Sino-Forest scandal.
Short sellers now smell blood and hope to profit from the company’s plummeting price.
All this may come to hurt the Tagish Lake project, because Silvercorp is the majority shareholder of Pacific Metals.
Contact John Thompson at