The Yukon Territorial Water Board has licensed underground exploration at the Selwyn Project, near the NWT border.
The project was opposed by the Liard First Nation, which challenged the government’s decision to allow the project in Yukon Supreme Court last month.
The First Nation’s case claimed the environmental assessment of the project was insufficient.
It is concerned about the project’s impact on local water supplies.
During a two-day hearing earlier this month, lawyers from all sides tried to decipher numerous scientific reports, including the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board’s approval.
In their final argument, counsel for the mining company noted the water board still had a role to play.
That role was not restrained by the court-proceedings, said water board manager Carola Scheu.
“The board is free to issue a licence if it so chooses,” she said after Justice Ron Veale reserved his decision, without any indication of when he will give it.
And that’s exactly what the water board did.
“It was a fairly straightforward process,” said Scheu Thursday. “The board followed due process in reviewing this application.”
The water board hasn’t given its reasons for issuing the Type B Quartz licence just yet, and like Veale, cannot offer any indication of when it will.
The project, owned by Selwyn-Chihong Mining Limited, is predicted to be one of the world’s largest, undeveloped zinc deposits.
The exploration program will involve the movement of up to 200,000 tonnes of rock and could operate for 10 years.
It is located 160 kilometres northeast of Ross River at Don Creek, a tributary of the Pelly River, which flows into the Yukon River.
The water licence will not expire until April 5, 2021.
Chief Liard McMillan, of the Liard First Nation, has not returned numerous phone calls requesting comment since the hearing took place earlier this month. (Roxanne Stasyszyn)