First Nation in Yukon celebrates ‘landmark’ court win against proposed mining exploration

Na-Cho Nyak Dun says case affirms government acted ‘unlawfully and dishonourably.’

The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun (FNNND) is celebrating a recent court decision over proposed mining exploration on its land.

“We are very pleased by the Court of Appeal’s decision,” said Chief Dawn Hope.

The “landmark case” dismisses an appeal by the Yukon government which would have permitted a decade of work on the FNNND’s territory in an area it sees as having great ecological and traditional importance.

“This case was deeply important to FNNND, not only because of the sensitive location where the mineral activity was proposed, but also because the case reaised critical questions around the nature and scope of FNNND’s Treaty right to co-manage their Traditional Territory,” said a statement posted on its website.

The Tse Tage is an untouched piece of wilderness on the First Nation’s territory.

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In 2021, the territorial government approved a mineral exploration project proposed by Metallic Minerals to go on to the next stage of the approval process.

That didn’t sit well with the First Nation, which doesn’t have a land use plan in place.

It took the government to court over a lack of consultation and won in January 2023. In November, the government appealed and argued that the judge erred and that the consultation was conducted properly.

However, Tuesday’s decision states otherwise.

Hope said that the decision affirms the territory acted “unlawfully and dishonorably.”

“We entered into our Treaty with the hope and expectation that we would be partners with public government in deciding whether and how our Traditional Territory could be developed,” she said. “Unfortunately, that core Treaty promise of co-governance has never been lived up to by Yukon Government.

“Our territory has been ground zero for mining – over and despite our objections.”

Yukon government said it’s reviewing the decision.

“We are carefully reviewing the decision issued by the Yukon Court of Appeal on April 9. We’ll have more to say once we have analyzed the decision,” said John Thompson, spokesperson with Energy, Mines and Resources in the Yukon government. “Such decisions are important in guiding how we do our work.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on April 12 to include a statement from Yukon government. 

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