White River First Nation wants all mining activity to cease in the Yukon, including in its traditional territory, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)

White River First Nation calls on premier to stop mining activity

An influx of miners in the area is causing concern

White River First Nation wants all mining activity to cease in the Yukon, including in its traditional territory, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now I’m pissed off,” Lands Director Janet VanderMeer told the News on March 31. “In our vast traditional territory we want everything stopped, so we can put the proper focus and emphasis on the health and safety of our people, our most vulnerable, our elders.”

Not doing so, she continued, will bring in waves of miners to the community, introducing a greater risk of people contracting COVID-19.

Newmont Mining Corporation’s Coffee Gold, an exploration project, is in its traditional territory. The Minto Mine is, too.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, announced the fifth case of COVID-19 on March 30. Focus has shifted to managing clusters.

A letter was sent to Premier Sandy Silver on the same day, urging him to suspend mining operations until the pandemic blows over, VanderMeer said.

“We feel that this government is pro-mining,” she said. “I fight with them everyday. I don’t wanna fight with this government anymore.”

She said miners are already starting to come into the area.

“It’s happening now,” she said, noting that exploration and operations ramp up around springtime.

“Everything that we’re doing with the Yukon government is status quo,” she said, adding that her department continues to receive Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment applications.

“Nothing has stopped with mining on every level,” VanderMeer said, noting that this doesn’t jive with the premier calling a state of emergency last week.

Simon Mervyn, chief of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, is also calling for action.

“The measures taken to date are insufficient,” he wrote in a letter to Premier Sandy Silver on March 25, referring to measures the Yukon government has taken so far to protect remote and First Nations communities. “Given the dire consequences that COVID-19 presents for the Yukon, and for NND citizens, far more is required.”

Mervyn wants mines to be put into care and maintenance “until this crisis has passed,” as well as a temporary halt to prospectors entering the First Nation’s traditional territory.

“Economic imperatives cannot be placed above the health and safety of our people,” the letter stated.

In an emailed statement on March 31, Yukon Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Ranj Pillai wrote that the decision to suspend or postpone mining operations is up to companies to decide.

The statement noted that the chief medical officer of health’s office “is in frequent contact with First Nations and community offices to ensure their communities are protected from this virus” and that “strict practices” are now “in place for workers traveling to mine sites.”

“The most important aspect is that any worker coming to a mine site or camp must be virus free,” he wrote.

The government is working with mining companies to ensure they have plans in place so their Outside workers can self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in the territory, Pillai said, giving the example of shift workers for the Minto Mine currently self-isolating at a Whitehorse hotel before continuing on to the site.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

First Nationsmining

Just Posted

A high streamflow advisory has been issued for the Nordenskiold and Klondike Rivers on May 11. Photo by Yukon Protective Services
Nordenskiold, Klondike rivers see rising water levels; advisory issued

Following the river-ice breakup, flows have continued to rise on Nordenskiold and Klondike River systems, said a release by the Emergency Measures Organization.

Mike Thomas/Yukon News file
A fox runs across the street at Main Street and Third Avenue.
A new project seeks to learn more about Whitehorse fox populations

A new project to monitor and improve the understanding of urban foxes living in Whitehorse will begin this year

The Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park will open on May 13. Joel Krahn/Yukon News
Whitehorse’s Fireweed Market opens May 13

The Fireweed Market will return with ‘exciting’ new and returning vendors

Ron Rousseau holds a sign saying ‘It’s time for a cultural shift’ during the Yukoners: Raise Your Voice Against Misogyny rally on May 11. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Protest held to condemn Yukon Party MLAs’ texts

A rally was held outside of legislature to condemn the inappropriate texts messages of Yukon Party MLAs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko.

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 12, 2021.… Continue reading

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file
File photo of the legislative assembly. The previous spring sitting began on March 4 but was interrupted due to the election.
Throne speech kicks off short spring legislature sitting

The government will now need to pass the budget.

Most Read