The Kluane First Nation is hoping that a new exploration deal with Teck Resources will add some wind to its sails, literally.
The deal, announced earlier this week, lays out co-operation between the First Nation and Teck as the company goes looking for gold in the community’s traditional territory.
But it also allows the First Nation to learn from the company’s work in renewable wind energy, and Chief Math’ieya Alatini hopes it could lead to local wind power generation for her community, she said.
“They’ve got a lot of expertise in renewable energy and we’re trying to tap into that expertise. So we’ve gone and visited the Wintering Hills project outside of Calgary. They have 50 wind turbines that are out there. So we’re kind of learning from their expertise in the renewable resources sector,” said Alatini.
The goal is to see wind turbines serve residents in Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing, she said. Those communities currently rely only on diesel power generators.
The company has been working with the First Nation for the past two years, Alatini said, since it first staked gold claims. The exploration deal, negotiated with help from the territorial government, supports Teck while it continues searching for gold deposits, in exchange for funding of community projects like a library and skating rink.
“Things that normally don’t get funding from government. It’s that community enhancement,” Alatini said.
The First Nation will also get first right of refusal on any jobs that Teck needs filled, she said.
“If we had a geologist, we would have first right of refusal on that too,” Alatini said.
Right now there are two Kluane citizens working for Teck, and Alatini expects about six more jobs to be created while the company is doing its exploration work.
The agreement only relates to exploration work. If a viable deposit is discovered and the company wants to pursue full production, they would have to sign a new agreement, the chief said.
While the deal sounds great for Kluane, their territory overlaps with the neighbouring White River First Nation, which could cause complications. Some of the land that Teck hopes to explore is in this area.
Unlike Kluane, White River has no signed final agreement, which makes negotiating with industry and government more difficult for them.
White River has been in an ongoing battle with the territorial government and mining company Tarsis.
Tarsis was given approval for its own advanced exploration work on White River territory, but White River lands co-ordinator Janet Vander Meer told the News in October that when her government tried to negotiate with Tarsis, they were treated disrespectfully.
White River is particularly worried about the Chisana caribou herd. The herd numbered around 1,800 in the late 1980s, said Vander Meer. By 2000, it had dropped to less than 450.
It now numbers around 700, said Vander Meer. White River has had a voluntary ban on hunting the herd in place since 1994.
The First Nation is also concerned about how the project could pollute water in the area, which it values more than gold, said Vander Meer.
White River has since asked for a judicial review of the government’s approval of Tarsis’s plans, saying that its constitutional rights were violated and that Tarsis’s work in the region could erode their traditional hunting areas.
Chief Alatini said that while she isn’t worried at this stage, the shared land issue could cause complications in the future.
“We have been very clear with Teck and Tarsis. We have a core area and White River has a core area. Our core area is covered by our agreement. We don’t have anything to do with Tarsis’s exploration in White River’s territory,” she said.
– With files from Meagan Gillmore
Contact Jesse Winter at