'No cloud' over mining plans after Alexco, Yukon First Nation sign deal

Owners of the Keno Hill silver mine site say they are getting some important peace of mind from an agreement they've signed with the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation in Mayo, Yukon.

Owners of the Keno Hill silver mine site say they are getting some important peace of mind from an agreement they've signed with the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation in Mayo, Yukon.

The signed co-operation deal between Alexco Resource Corp. and the Na-Cho Nyak Dun could help smooth the way for Alexco to reopen the Keno Hill silver site, located on First Nation territory 330 kilometres north of Whitehorse.

Under the agreement, which Alexco announced on Thursday, the company recognizes that the First Nation has a land claim that guarantees it has aboriginal and political rights in the region.

In return, Alexco now has clear title to the mining claims in the area — the kind of certainty that Alexco needs to attract investment, vice-president Rob McIntyre told CBC News on Sunday.

"Alexco has mining claims, and there's a sanctity of mineral title here and that's the absolute foundation," McIntyre said.

"So for our investors, for our board of directors, for everybody to say that these guys own the claims, that's what we're getting out of this agreement here. There's no question, there's no cloud over the title here."

Vancouver-based Alexco Resource Corp. owns more than 40 former silver mines around the Keno City and Elsa areas. It is planning to conduct extensive exploration work at one of the sites later this summer.

The Na-Cho Nyak Dun has also been promised economic opportunities and more involvement in the development of silver mines in the area.

Na-Cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn could not be reached for comment.

Laying out an agreement means the First Nation won't face any surprises when Alexco puts in further development applications, McIntyre said.

"When the lands branch at Na-Cho Nyak Dun gets our application on their desk they'll say, 'Yeah, that's the one that we talked about over the last couple of months with the company,'" he said.

"So there will be part of it and there may be aspects that we'll hear about that's more important to them or something to be sure that we avoid, or something we'll be sure to include."

McIntyre said the company is also putting up money for the Na-Cho Nyak Dun to hire a co-ordinator to act as a liaison between the First Nation and the company.

The co-ordinator will keep the First Nation up to date on what's happening with Alexco's mining projects, as well as pass on information about job and contract opportunties, he added.