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Yukon prospecting plan approval is quashed by First Nation court victory

WHITEHORSE — A Yukon court has quashed government approval for a mining exploration project, siding with a First Nation that argued there was a failure to properly consult it about the project on its traditional territory.
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The Metallic Minerals Corp. logo is seen in this undated handout. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

WHITEHORSE — A Yukon court has quashed government approval for a mining exploration project, siding with a First Nation that argued there was a failure to properly consult it about the project on its traditional territory.

The government had approved a plan by Metallic Minerals Corp. to conduct exploration for a gold and silver mine every summer for 10 years in the Beaver River Watershed, moving it to the final stage before regulatory authorization.

But the Supreme Court of Yukon says in a ruling issued Tuesday that the 2021 decision breached the honour of the Crown by failing to consult the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun or act in line with its treaty obligations.

Metallic Minerals, which wasn't represented in the application for judicial review, had plans to build roads, trails, a helipad and a camp for 20 workers to prospect for quartz in the watershed.

The ruling by Yukon Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan returns the proposal to the evaluation stage.

Na-Cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn says in a statement that he hopes the ruling inspires other First Nations to "defend their treaties and fight to have a say about what happens on their lands.”

He says the government must respect and implement treaty rights, and his nation looks forward to "a collaborative planning process, where we work to protect our rights, lands and waters together." 

The statement says the watershed is a "pristine, highly significant part of" the First Nation's territory.

It also expresses appreciation to Metallic Minerals for voluntarily not undertaking exploration while the case was proceeding and not opposing the First Nation's lawsuit.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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