Regarding the Kudz Ze Kayah Project Name
We read with concern the letter posted to the Yukon News website dated Jan. 8, 2023, from Aja Mason regarding our proposed Kudz Ze Kayah project. In the letter, the author made the point that words and language are powerful and the way they are used matters. While we agree wholeheartedly with that proposition, it is equally true that facts, accuracy, and integrity also matter. As such, it is extremely disappointing that the author elected to use a public platform such as the Yukon News to attempt to damage BMC Minerals Ltd. (BMC) and the good people who work for us, including Kaska. The author misrepresented the facts, and where the facts were unknown, constructed a false narrative.
In her letter, the author asks why BMC chose to name its project Kudz Ze Kayah then proceeds to assign all manner of nefarious rationale to our supposed decision to do so, from undermining Kaska rights to hoodwinking the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB). All of which ignores the fact that BMC did not actually name the Kudz Ze Kayah project. The project was in fact named such by a mutual agreement between Kaska and previous owners approximately 30 years ago.
In 1995 the Ross River Development Corporation and Cominco signed a Socio-Economic Participation Agreement (SEPA) in relation to a proposed mine at the Kudz Ze Kayah property. This “life of project” agreement was endorsed by the Ross River Dena Council after the community voted to support it. We understand the project name was selected to ensure everyone understood, acknowledged, and respected the importance of the area to Kaska and the critical importance caribou have in Kaska culture. As Cominco moved the project through a successful environmental assessment and water licencing process, receiving approval for the mine from both the federal government and the Yukon Water Board in 1998, the name Kudz Ze Kayah was front and centre.
In 2004 Teck Cominco signed a new SEPA for the project with the Ross River Dena Council acting on behalf of all Kaska First Nations. Again, references to the project in this agreement were to the “Kudz Ze Kayah Project and surrounding properties”. This consistency of approach reflected the continued and ongoing respect for the traditional Kaska name for the area and acknowledgement of the area’s importance to Kaska.
When BMC purchased the project from Teck in 2015, we assumed the rights and responsibility for delivery of the owners’ obligations under the SEPA (as well as the name of the project) and since then we have worked hard to meet or exceed all our obligations under that agreement. We have also tabled a proposal with Kaska to amend and modernize the existing SEPA by building on those historic agreements. We have also worked very hard, with Kaska involvement, to develop a project that acknowledges the importance of the area and involves Kaska in management of the project to ensure their concerns are addressed, impacts are minimized, and benefits from the project flow to the Kaska citizens and communities.
In addition, BMC has funded two independent environmental/technical reviews of our project, one by Ross River Dena Council and one by Liard First Nation. Material from those reviews have informed the environmental assessment and our plans and will inform licencing. Likewise, we worked with Kaska Elders and community members and adjusted our designs and plans based on their input. We have supported Kaska contractors, hired Kaska citizens, held land based cultural training conducted by Kaska Elders, and established a Kaska scholarship program for citizens who wish to continue their educational goals. We have quietly and continuously supported community wellness initiatives and contributed to school programs and cultural events. For the writer to suggest we are being anything except supportive and respectful of Kaska, can most politely be described as mischievous.
As for the author’s suggestion that referring to the project by its correct Kaska name should be interpreted as BMC attempting to conceal something, BMC is proud to be judged on our record. Since 2015, throughout the last five years of environmental assessment, and now as we enter the regulatory licencing process, BMC has answered every question put to us by anyone, either directly or through the YESAB process. We have always acted in good faith, and in a transparent manner and we will continue to do so over the course of the project. We hope that people who have a genuine interest in informing themselves about our project will do so and if we can provide any information at any time to assist them, we are happy to make that happen.
The name of the project has been Kudz Ze Kayah since 1995 and the traditional Kaska name of the area for a significantly longer period. BMC will continue to respect the traditional name for the area, and the name agreed to by Kaska and the previous owners, as an affirmation of our continued commitment to Kaska and the communities within which we operate.
We do not expect everyone to be in favour of our project, but we do expect that people making public statements will base them on the facts and act honestly and with integrity rather than making baseless accusations. We certainly don’t expect people to arbitrarily and falsely assign ulterior motives and cast aspersions on our company and our employees in order to advance their own agenda. Everyone is entitled to express their own opinion, hopefully it can be an informed and respectful one.
Further information on BMC Minerals, the Kudz Ze Kayah Project and our current and planned activities can be found on www.bmcminerals.com and we welcome any specific questions anyone may have which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
VP – External Affairs