Liard First Nation takes Yukon mining battle to industry event

The Liard First Nation is threatening a showdown with Yukon mining companies when the entire industry meets next week in Vancouver.

The Liard First Nation is threatening a showdown with Yukon mining companies when the entire industry meets next week in Vancouver.

In a news release issued Thursday, Chief Liard McMillan of the Watson Lake-based First Nation said he's demanding compensation from mining companies currently operating in the First Nation's traditional territory in southeastern Yukon.

"We intend to make them fully aware of our view on this directly," McMillan stated in the release.

"Should changes to these practices not occur quickly, we will take prompt action to be more forceful with our message."

He said he will take his message to industry players at the annual Mineral Exploration Roundup, a technical mineral exploration conference that begins Monday in Vancouver.

He and a team of band officials promise to air their demands publicly on Monday night, when Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie is scheduled to host a reception for mining industry players.

McMillan said mining companies doing business on the Liard First Nation's territory have a legal obligation to negotiate benefits agreements with the band.

Although the Liard First Nation has not settled its land claims, he said such a legal obligation is set out in the devolution transfer agreement that the federal and Yukon governments signed in 2001.

The Liard First Nation has hired former Yukon cabinet minister Trevor Harding as an adviser on the issue, McMillan stated in his release.

McMillan has already made more specific threats against companies operating in the region. Last month, he threatened operators of Yukon Nevada Gold's Ketza River mine with a legal challenge of their water licence, even though the mine had already negotiated a benefits agreement with the nearby Ross River Dena Council.

McMillan said he would not recognize any agreement that does not include his own First Nation. He has demanded immediate funding to negotiate a separate agreement for a share of benefits from the Ketza River mine.

Neither McMillan nor Yukon government officials returned calls from CBC News regarding the matter on Thursday.