The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in says it has not been consulted properly on Goldcorp’s proposal to build the Coffee Gold Project south of Dawson.
The company, on the other hand, disagrees.
In a letter last month to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB), Chief Roberta Joseph maintains the company has not fulfilled the consultation requirements set out in the assessment legislation.
It has also failed to fulfill the consultation requirements contained in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s aboriginal land claim settlement, Joseph says in her letter.
Joseph said Kaminak Gold – the wholly-owned subsidiary of Goldcorp – did not provide sufficient information about substantial changes to the project before submitting the proposal to the assessment board on March 31.
“Since Kaminak did not provide us with an opportunity to review the March 31 proposal submitted to YESAB, we are uncertain about the extent to which all of our technical comments continue to be applicable,” writes the chief.
“Notwithstanding this concern, we have decided to provide you with our technical comments on the old proposal in the expectation that they will prove useful in outlining our ongoing concerns in respect of the insufficient assessment of the effects of the project on our rights and interests under the final agreement.”
Among the concerns being raised is a change in the mine plan, changes to the management of waste rock and changes to the road access route.
Goldcorp purchased Kaminak Gold and its Coffee Gold Project last summer for $520 million. The company has said it is committed to spending the additional $400-plus million to bring the open-pit Coffee project into production by the end of 2020.
It has also indicated it would like to begin by the middle of next year making the necessary improvements to the existing road running through the placer gold fields, and building new sections where required.
In his response to the criticism from the chief, Goldcorp mine manager Buddy Crill wrote the assessment board to defend its consultation process. He maintains the company has gone the extra mile as much as possible to ensure the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in has been kept up to date, both recently and before Goldcorp purchased Kaminak, he said.
Crill notes in his submission one of the key factors in Goldcorp’s decision to purchase Kaminak Gold was the strong relationship between Kaminak and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.
Kaminak, he writes, has fully funded the First Nation’s involvement in the technical review of the project proposal and the working group sessions between representatives of both parties.
Crill emphasizes the company has provided answers to 450 information requests from the First Nation.
“Kaminak’s approach has yielded useful responses from TH, which in turn have led to changes in the project design,” Crill writes in his May 12 response to Joseph’s May 4 letter to the board. “The consultation has been more than adequate, and Kaminak intends to continue with this approach.”
The company does not agree with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s interpretation of the legislative requirements to fulfill the duty to consult, says Crill’s submission.
He maintains the legislation does not require the company to provide the First Nation with the entire proposal right down to the last letter before submitting to the assessment board.
The Coffee Gold Project is being handled by the assessment board's executive committee. Committee chair Wendy Randall as a matter of routine sent a letter to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, two other affected First Nations and other parties involved such as the federal government inviting them to comment on whether the information provided by the company is adequate to conduct a review. The parties have until no later than June 20 to provide their comments.
Communication officer Rob Yeomans of the assessment board explained this morning that the board began the 60-day adequacy review period on May 15.
The board has until mid-July to write its adequacy report determining if there is sufficient information to move forward with formal review of the project.
Included in the determination is whether affected First Nations have been properly consulted, Yeomans explained.
Under the legislation, once the executive committee determines there is sufficient information to assess the proposal, it opens up the period to receive public comment on the project.
Yeomans pointed out, for instance, that in its review of the proposal received recently from BMC Minerals for an open pit project at its Kudz Ze Kayak property southeast of Ross River, the executive committee has asked the company to provide answers to 100 questions.
Goldcorp is a Canadian company and the fourth largest gold producer in the world.
Crill has said the company does not expect to make a lot, if any, money from the Coffee Gold Project, given the combined purchase and development cost of over $900 million.
As much as anything, Goldcorp wanted to move into the region south of Dawson for its future potential and wanted to use the Coffee project to show the community it is a good corporate citizen who listens, Crill has indicated previously.