Yukon judge mulls White River First Nation mining dispute
First Nation says Tarsis Resources' plans will disrupt a threatened caribou herd
A Yukon Supreme Court judge will consider a First Nation's dispute over a mining claim in its traditional territory.
The White River First Nation says a mining company's drilling plans will disrupt the threatened Chisana caribou herd in the area. The herd has a population of about 700 animals.
The company has claims in the White River area, about 400 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse, near the border between Alaska and Yukon.
The dispute follows months of negotiations. It culminated last fall when the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board recommended the government deny Tarsis Resources' drilling plans because of wildlife concerns.
However, government biologists say the threatened herd rarely, if ever, ventures near the proposed drilling project.
When the Yukon Government approved the project, White River appealed to the courts. The First Nation’s lawyers portrayed the Vancouver-based company as "bullies and bad actors."
Tarsis claims it bent over backwards to accommodate the First Nation’s concerns. Company lawyers told the court they were subjected to "inappropriate demands for more funding" during their negotiations.
Yukon government lawyers say the Crown fulfilled its duties to consult and accommodate the First Nation, but insists it has no obligation to agree with the First Nation.
Yukon Chief Justice Ron Veale has reserved his ruling.