A mining executive who left an environmental mess at Canadian taxpayers’ feet near Carmacks is teaming up with the Chinese government to explore and develop Yukon’s natural resources.
Announced Tuesday, the joint venture will see Yukon-Nevada Gold Corp. join forces with an Asian investment company called Northwest Non-Ferrous International Investment Company Ltd., owned by a government-mining bureau of the People’s Republic of China.
The two companies will explore and develop properties in the territory together with a company called Yukon-Shaanxi Gold Company Inc.
The partnership should be raising the eyebrows of all Yukoners, said Ottawa-based Mining Watch Canada.
The cause for concern — the president of Yukon-Nevada, Graham Dickson, was in charge of another company, BYG Resources.
And BYG left a multi-million dollar mess at the Mount Nansen mine, 60 kilometres west of Carmacks, when the company went belly up in 1999, said Joan Kuyek, a national co-ordinator with the mining watchdog.
“You have to look at the history of this company in the Yukon and some of the people involved in it,” she said.
“BYG was a pretty nasty operator and left a pretty nasty mess as Mount Nansen …”
BYG, which operated the Mount Nansen mine from 1996 to 1999, consistently violated the terms of its water licence.
It was found guilty of haphazardly constructing its tailings pond and dam.
It also failed to stabilize arsenic levels, and behaved in a manner that was inept, bumbling, amateurish and possibly negligent, according to Yukon Supreme Court judge Heino Lilles.
Another Yukon judge, Ron Veale, pegged the cost of cleanup at $23 million.
That record combined with notoriously generous laws for corporations and lax environmental enforcement in Yukon could be cause for concern, said Kuyek.
Not so, said Dickson.
The former BYG executive has kept his nose clean for more than two years, as shown at a Ketza River property, he said.
“I think you can look at what’s happened out at Ketza River over the past two and a half years and see how we’ve been operating out there,” said Dickson.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on reclamation and remediation and cleaning up what other people left behind.
“I think my track record is extremely good over the past two and a half years.”
In Dickson’s new 50-50 joint venture, each company will initially put in $1.5 million.
It will bring new money to the territory and give Yukoners and other Canadians a chance to invest when the company goes public, he said.
“What we have before us today is quite a historical agreement in my opinion. We’re looking at an agreement that will bring Chinese resources into the Yukon and help develop Yukon Resources.
“Those resources that will come from China are money and technical assistance.”
The Chinese have confidence in Dickson and the territorial government and feel the Yukon is a good place to invest, said Sun Feng, an official with the Chinese government who attended the media announcement.
“This is a very positive agreement.
“We found our best partner in the Yukon territory, and we think highly of the Yukon territory.”
The Chinese company will pay strict attention to Yukon’s environmental regime, he said.
“At the beginning of a mine we will have a good plan to protect the environment, said Feng.
“We pay a lot of attention on environmental protection.”
Feng spoke through an interpreter.
The Yukon government is very supportive of the new partnership it helped create, said Jim Kenyon, minister of Economic Development.
“I’m very glad to see this prosperous friendship that has developed over time and we look forward to shared benefits.
“The department of Economic Development is very pleased to have helped facilitate this business alliance.
“We’ve worked, and will work with private and public partners to enhance business, trade, and investment opportunities in Asia, particularly in China for very strategic reasons.”