FNNND Chief speaks out about Eagle Gold Mine clean up efforts

An aerial shot of Eagle Gold Mine on July 3, nine days after the heap leach failure. (Photo: Government of Yukon.

"We want to see this cleaned up; and for us, right now, to clean it up, there cannot be a dollar value on it.”

First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Chief Dawna Hope is deeply concerned with the response to the June 24 heap leach failure at Victoria Gold’s Eagle Gold Mine.

Yesterday, the Government of Yukon held its second technical briefing to discuss updates on the Eagle Gold Mine incident. During the briefing, Yukon government representatives said numerous times that they were collaborating with the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun regularly through the early clean up process.

Speaking with CHON-FM shortly after the briefing, Chief Hope said that the government’s attempt at collaboration has fallen short of her expectations.

“We do not think that it has been sufficient,” said Hope. “Our people have been on-site every day since the first day; taking water samples rigorously, twice a day. I would like to, and I’ve suggested to Yukon government, that we take the lead on this.”

“We invite Yukon government to join us. We would like to do this together. But I truly believe that we have different values and priorities than mining, at this point. We want to see this cleaned up; and for us, right now, to clean it up, there cannot be a dollar value on it.”

“It needs to be cleaned up.”

Cleaning the site is a top priority for everyone involved. At yesterday’s briefing, Energy, Mines, and Resources Minister John Streicker provided updates on water sample results taken near the mine; four of which came back positive for cyanide. Water tested in Haggart Creek showed a cyanide level of 0.04 milligrams per litre, which Streicker said could affect fish.

While Haggart Creek is not used as a drinking source, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health Sudit Ranade has recommended that people stay away from the immediate vicinity for recreational purposes.

During the briefing, when asked about First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun’s call to pause mining in its traditional territory, Minister Streicker said that the government would need time to think about it. He also said he would need some clarification; expressing concerns that the First Nation was asking Victoria Gold to leave the area before they finished cleaning.

Speaking with CHON-FM, Chief Hope provided that clarification.

“We did not ask Victoria Gold to stop cleaning up the mess that they made,” said Hope. “We asked Yukon government for a halt – a pause – and stop, temporarily, their ongoing permitting process for mining industry within our traditional territory. The Crown knows that they have a duty to consult; and right now, we can’t be consulted on ongoing projects due to the Wildland Fire evacuation notice and this emergency unfolding within the south McQuesten river valley.”

As for clean up efforts, heap leach analyst Mark Smith said at yesterday’s briefing that Eagle Gold Mine gets enough rainfall in the spring that the slide could move again. According to Minister Streicker, teams met Thursday afternoon to discuss this risk and try to develop a plan to address it.

The Government of Yukon will continue to hold weekly briefings with updates on the Eagle Gold Mine incident as necessary this summer.

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