Skeena Resources launches mentorship program with Tahltan Nation

·2 min read

A junior exploration company is taking on Indigenous students as it explores reopening the world’s once highest-grade gold mine in Northwest B.C.

Skeena Resources (SR) launched a mentorship program earlier this year for the Eskay Creek project located within the traditional territory of the Tahltan Nation and the asserted traditional territory of the Skii Km Lax Ha Nation, approximately 125 kilometres south of Iskut and 83 kilometres northwest of Stewart.

SR advisor of Indigenous and external relations, Sue Craig, said their vice president of sustainability, Justin Himmelright, was keen on developing a mentorship program.

“The whole concept of this mentoring program, or identifying Tahltans that are graduating, is hopefully seeing them staying with the project and hopefully seeing them in more senior roles as the project becomes a mine,” Craig said.

Throughout this year, of number of Tahltan engineering, biology and environmental students have received mentorship —some have even been hired—at the property which is currently in its advanced exploration stage.

“Our hope and our objective is that by the time this mine is into production they’ll have seen the entire sequence, planning, permitting, engineering and construction of the mine,” Himmelright said.

“They’ll have very deep corporate knowledge and history of the project, and they’ll be prime candidates for management positions at the mine site at that time.”

Before the mine was placed into care and maintenance in 2012 as a result of low gold prices coupled with the high costs of operating diesel generators, it is estimated at least 30 per cent of the workforce at Eskay Creek was made up of Tahltan members.

With gold prices rising and expected to hold steady in the medium- to long-term and a new high voltage electricity project approved to bring power to the “Golden Triangle” area of Northwest B.C. where Eskay Creek is located, conditions are much improved for the viability of the mine.

While Skii Km Lax Ha Nation members were not involved in the earlier stages of the mine, the same cannot be said today.

“They have a company, and we do have a contract in place with them,” Himmelright added.

“There are are some workers on the site from Skii Km Lax Ha as well.”

Skeena acquired full ownership of the past underground mine from Barrick Gold Inc. in early August 2020.

Through B.C’s environmental permitting process the open-pit mine which will have a mine life of nearly nine years and process 6,850 tonnes of ore per day could be operational by mid-2024.

“I think we’ve built a very solid mutually beneficial respectful and trustful relationship, and we’re really working with them [Tahltan] in a collaborative format on this mine reopening project,” Himmelright said, noting Skeena has been closely working with the Tahltan Nation on a number of different projects since 2016.

Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune