BEAVER CREEK, YUKON--(Marketwire - Oct. 24, 2012) - White River First Nation has filed judicial review proceedings to overturn the decision of the Yukon government to give a green light to Tarsis Resources' five year plan for mineral exploration in WRFN's territory. This proposed exploration plan was environmentally assessed by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board who recommended, in an 81 page Evaluation Report, that the project not proceed given its "...significant adverse environmental and socioeconomic effects in and outside the Yukon that cannot be mitigated." In particular, the Board found the significant effects to the Chisana caribou herd, which use the Property as a calving ground, could not be mitigated; and, the effects on WRFN's traditional land use and culture could not be mitigated.
Despite this clear rejection by the Assessment Board the Yukon government rejected its advice and approved the project, which has now gone on to the next stage of regulatory review.
From outset WRFN made its concerns about this project clear. These lands are important culturally sensitive lands for the people of WRFN. The lands and waters which are the subject of the Tarsis Project, have been integral to the culture, economy and survival of the WRFN. Additionally, the Chisana Caribou herd is an important historic resource for the community. WRFN has supported the very strict protective measures that have been imposed to protect this herd which has seen a dramatic decline in its numbers over the last twenty years, and since 1994 WRFN members have volunteered to not exercise their aboriginal right to hunt the herd.
To allow Tarsis to engage in the advanced exploration program it proposes is a first step to the larger development of this land in way that will further threaten WRFN's way of life and the sustainability of the Chisana Caribou herd. Such steps require far deeper consultation with White River than has occurred to date.
Chief Eikland Jr has stated: "We are shocked that the Yukon government rejected the Board's recommendation. The Director made this decision without real consultation with us and by completely disregarding traditional knowledge and values. It seems to us that the government always planned to approve this project and no longer take the Board or the duty to consult seriously."
WRFN Councilor Patrick Johnny said, "WRFN asked the Premier in August 2012 to do the right thing with this license. Instead his government chose to ignore the assessor. As a First Nation with no land claim we have completely lost faith in the assessment and regulatory process in Yukon. It has become a debacle for First Nations and Industry. The Premier and his government act as the regulator and they have shown their willingness to approve licenses against recommendations of their assessor with no regard for the environment."
WRFN Councilor Patrick Johnny added, "For too long Government and Industry have taken WRFN Aboriginal rights and title to our Traditional Territory for granted. Canada and Yukon have made few attempts to meaningfully engage with us outside of the UFA Land Claims process, which WRFN rejected. We hope that the outcome of this confrontational process will illustrate that WRFN and Government need a new approach to development, and that we are willing to work with Government to create more certainty for all. The way things have been done is no longer be acceptable in WRFN Traditional Territory."
WRFN has not signed a Land Claim Agreement with Canada and Yukon and has unsurrendered Aboriginal rights and title to the lands that Tarsis Resources is attempting to exploit.
In an ironic twist, despite repeated requests by WRFN to have a properly constituted table to resolve critical issues with Canada and YTG, YTG provided notice on Oct 23rd 2012 that they are shutting down a Consultation Protocol table with WRFN that was intended was to provide resolution to exactly these types of issues.
Chief Eikland Jr. of White River First Nation on his own behalf and on behalf of all other members of White River has brought an application at the Yukon Supreme Court for a Judicial Review of the decision of the Director of Mineral Resources to reject the recommendation of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board and approve an application by Tarsis Resources Ltd. for a five-year Class 3 mining land use approval for mineral exploration.
The Project is located within White River traditional territory, encompasses an area of approximately 70 sq km, and is only accessible via helicopter. The Project area is in a pristine area of deep cultural significance to White River. White River opposes the Project on the basis that the Project would adversely impact, both on its own and together with other planned activities, White River's section 35 rights, title and culture.
Tarsis staked the Project in the June of 2010 and has been undertaking Class 1 exploring activities since then. Yukon did not consult with White River with respect to any Class 1 related activities. On March 3, 2012, Tarsis applied to undertake further and more advanced activities under a Class 3 approval including: prospecting, geological mapping, soil sampling, ground geophysical surveying, trenching and drilling.
After extensive consultation with White River on July 30, 2012, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board recommended that the Project not proceed on the basis that the significant effects to the Chisana caribou herd, which use the Property as a calving ground, could not be mitigated; and, the effects on White River's traditional land use and culture could not be mitigated.
However, on September 5, 2012, without adequate or meaningful consultation with White River, the Director of Mineral Resources rejected the Board's recommendation and concluded that the potential significant adverse effects associated with the Project could be mitigated. The Director rejected the recommendation of the Board without sufficient, credible information and did not consider all of potential adverse impacts of the Project on White River's rights, title, culture and well-being.
A decision in favour of White River will require that the Director re-consider his decision and enter into consultation with White River with a genuine intention to listen to, consider and take into account the concerns and interests of White River with an open mind and with a willingness to alter his proposed course of conduct.
To view the petition, please visit the following link: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/wrfn1024i.PDF