Golden Predator Corp. and Tr’ondek Hwech’in disagree with a Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board decision that the company’s planned Brewery Creek mine must go through an extended review process.
YESAB’s Dawson City office informed the company on Feb. 14 that its proposal is outside of its jurisdiction. Instead, Golden Predator must submit its proposal to the board’s executive committee, which will involve a longer and more rigorous period of review.
The extended assessment will cost money the company does not have, and could substantially delay the project and the local economic benefits that will come with it, according to the company’s news release.
All mining operations in the territory must complete a YESAB assessment before they are granted a licence.
The vast majority of proposals go through the board’s regional designated offices. However, major projects are assessed by the executive committee. In most years only one or two projects are submitted to that committee for review.
Guidelines for what sorts of projects require executive committee assessment are set out in the regulations associated with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.
Construction of a gold mine with the capacity to produce 300 tonnes or more of ore per day requires executive committee review.
While the proposed ore production at Brewery Creek exceeds this benchmark, the company has argued that its project is modifying an existing mine, rather than building a new one.
The project is located 55 kilometres east of Dawson and is accessible by roads near the Dempster Highway junction.
Viceroy Resource Corp. operated a gold mine at the Brewery Creek property between 1996 and 2002.
Golden Predator purchased the property in 2012 from Alexco Resource Corp.
In October 2012, Golden Predator asked assessors if they agreed that a designated office review would be appropriate for its proposed re-opening of the mine site.
They gave “very general” plans for the project, said YESAB Chair Stephen Mills, and supported the request with a legal opinion and letters from the Yukon government and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in.
Mills replied in a letter dated Nov. 1, 2012 that it was the opinion of the board that the project would have to go through executive committee review.
This position was supported by extensive documentation, which largely supported the suggestion that the former mine had been permanently closed.
In a further email on Nov. 23, Mills wrote that the Dawson designated office would review Golden Predator’s proposal, but that “ultimately, when submitted, the determination whether the proposed activities are within the jurisdiction of the designated office to assess will be made by the designated office based on the proposal submitted.”
Despite these clear indications that the question of jurisdiction was at issue, Golden Predator asserted in a press release this week that “in discussions with YESAB through the late fall and prior to January, Golden Predator understood from YESAB that a designated office assessment would be considered appropriate.”
“This decision has come as a surprise to Golden Predator and Tr’ondek Hwech’in and is extremely disappointing,” the press release later stated.
The company signed a socio-economic agreement with the First Nation in 2012. In exchange for support for the project, including through the assessment process, Tr’ondek Hwech’in received equity interest in the company and promises of other economic and social benefits.
Both Golden Predator and Tr’ondek Hwech’in were unavailable for comment by press time.
The company submitted a proposal to the Dawson designated office in January.
At that point, assessors set out to determine whether or not the project could be considered a modification of an existing mine, and therefore qualify for designated office review.
The company currently holds a quartz mining licence and a water board licence for the property, and does not require assessment for activities currently permitted under those licences.
However, in detailed correspondence with the Yukon government, YESAB determined that very few of the activities proposed by Golden Predator are allowed under their current licences.
The office ultimately agreed with the board’s previous opinion that the project involved the construction of a new mine and would require executive committee assessment.
While this jurisdictional question was being answered, the office was also investigating the completeness of Golden Predator’s project proposal.
Tr’ondek Hwech’in, the Yukon government, and the government of Canada all responded to requests to comment on the adequacy of the proposal.
All parties requested supplementary information about the company’s plans for the mine.
Environment Canada had 25 pages of comments, questions and criticisms of the proposal.
Tr’ondek Hwech’in asked for more information on potential impacts to traditional land usage, tourism, traffic, the environment and community health.
While the company argues that executive committee review will substantially delay the project, the YESAB chair said that the lack of an appropriate proposal is an even bigger hurdle.
“Our own work internally has identified that the proposal needs quite a bit of work in order to be adequate to start the assessment,” said Mills. “That doesn’t matter if it’s at the designated office or executive committee level, you need to have an adequate project proposal to come in.”
At this point, Golden Predator may choose to submit a proposal to the executive committee for review. The Dawson office suggested that the company fill in some of the information gaps identified by the adequacy review before submitting it to the executive committee.
The company could also re-submit to the Dawson office, but it would have to make significant material changes to its plans, said Mills.
Finally, it could choose to challenge YESAB’s decision in court.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at