Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in FN and Goldcorp spar over mine proposal

The Yukon First Nation says the mining company is pushing its Coffee Mine project too fast through the environmental screening process.

Yukon First Nation says mining company is pushing its Coffee Mine project too fast through screening

Goldcorp submitted 19,000 documents on the company's plans for its Coffee Gold Mine. (Goldcorp)

Goldcorp says the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation in Dawson City has refused to allow the company to speak directly to First Nation citizens about its gold mine proposal south of the Yukon community.

The comment is made in a document filed with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board and in response to documents filed by the First Nation complaining about consultation by the company.

Goldcorp filed its 19,000 page application with the environmental screening agency at the end of March.

The assessment board is currently determining if the proposal contains enough information to allow the board to make recommendations about whether it should be permitted to move forward. There will also be a public comment phase.

The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation wrote the board in early May complaining about Goldcorp's "aggressive timelines" and that the company ignored the First Nation's concerns.

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in chief Roberta Joseph said earlier this spring Goldcorp and the First Nation are still working on their relatively new relationship. (Dave Croft/CBC)

It says the company has not responded to more than 130 questions submitted by the First Nation. It says other questions were not answered adequately.

The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in says moving the process forward without dealing with those concerns would violate its rights under its land claim agreements.

Goldcorp sent its response to the board in mid-May asserting that the consultation has been more than adequate.

It says it has been providing funding to the First Nation "to ensure that TH is able to participate fully in the assessment" and that the company is considering a request for additional funding.

The company says it has held four workshops and three telephone conferences with Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in officials to explain the project with more to come.

Goldcorp environmental monitor Robert Farr, left, and Coffee Mine project general manager Buddy Crill at the Dawson City Gold Show in May. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Goldcorp adds that it's been told by Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in that it cannot host a public meeting for its citizens, nor is it allowed to make presentations at open houses hosted by the First Nation. 

The assessment board has 60 days to make its decision about the adequacy phase of the proposal. It can add extensions to that period.

The company's goal is to have the gold mine, about 130 kilometres south of Dawson City, in production sometime in 2021. It would hire up to approximately 400 people.

Goldcorp declined to make any further comment on the assessment board submissions. No one with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation was available for comment.