'Free pass in the Yukon': Yukon NDP raises concerns over Newmont's mining work in other countries

·3 min read
Newmont Corporation wants to build an open pit gold mine in the White Gold district south of Dawson City. NDP MLA Emily Tredger said it's a 'giant oversight' that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) can't review issues about the company that happen outside the territory's borders. (Newmont - image credit)
Newmont Corporation wants to build an open pit gold mine in the White Gold district south of Dawson City. NDP MLA Emily Tredger said it's a 'giant oversight' that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) can't review issues about the company that happen outside the territory's borders. (Newmont - image credit)

The Yukon government needs to consider Newmont Corporation's questionable track record in other countries, according to the NDP's house leader.

"Allegations of human rights abuses have followed this corporation wherever they go," said Emily Tredger, noting that there's a laundry list of concerns over how the company has operated in Peru, specifically.

"While the local mining industry keeps pushing for ethical, sustainable practices, this government continues to allow multi-billion-dollar parent companies that commit human rights abuses outside of Canada to do business in the territory."

Newmont's Coffee Gold project, south of Dawson City, cleared an environmental assessment in March. The company proposes to build a large gold mine capable of producing about 67 million tonnes of ore over the project's lifecycle – 24 years, including closure and reclamation.

The company is likely years away from starting construction because Newmont has many regulatory hurdles to overcome, including obtaining a water license and a quartz licence.

Tredger said it's not just alleged human rights abuses, but environmental violations that tarnish the reputations of some of the top mining corporations in the world, and there's no way to vet – or consider – problems that haven't occurred on Yukon's soil.

Tredger said the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) can't review issues that happen outside the territory's borders. She calls that a "giant oversight," equivalent to providing some of the richest companies in the world with free passes in the Yukon.

That's why Tredger wants companies' track records in other jurisdictions to fall under the purview of the assessment board.

"It's a responsibility to the people of the Yukon, it's the responsibility to the environment of the Yukon, and pretending that information doesn't exist is just sticking our head in the sand," Tredger said.

A spokesperson with Newmont didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

'I have not looked into them myself'

Mines Minister John Streicker told reporters on Monday he's aware of concerns with Newmont.

"I have not looked into them myself," he said.

Streicker said there are the proper checks and balances in place to ensure companies comply with rules and regulations. He added the government can't just start blacklisting companies, noting that Newmont is well-regarded in the territory.

CBC/Julien Gignac
CBC/Julien Gignac

"The Yukon Socio-economic Assessment Act, it's a pretty good act, but I wasn't thinking of international human rights," Streicker said. "With all the conversations I've had with First Nations, that's not been a question which has been raised to me."

Affected First Nations whose traditional territories fall within the parameters of the project include Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Selkirk First Nation, White River First Nation and the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun.

Streicker said concerns about international human rights are best pitched to the federal government.

"We do think there should be responsible mining here," he said. "We talk to [resource companies] about the importance of working with communities from the start."

According to a screening report conducted by YESAB last year, the executive committee assesses projects, not proponents.

The report, which includes a human rights section, states numerous concerns were raised about how Newmont has operated in Peru, which is the subject of a court case.

"The prosecution and/or outcome of this case cannot be considered evidence of potential effects on human rights from the proposed project," the report states.

"The proponent is bound by federal and territorial human rights law. These laws apply regardless of proposed activities, determinations of significance, or the overall recommendation at the conclusion of project screening."

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