Carmacks project violating indigenous rights

Carmacks project violating indigenous rights

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John Ahni Schertow
January 18, 2008
 
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There is yet another mine set to be developed on indigenous territory without the consent of the people—a mine that has been so poorly engineered that it threatens an environmental disaster.

According to a Press Release by the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, Western Copper’s proposed Carmacks mine, set to begin this coming spring, “includes a heap leach pile built on the side of a mountain that will cover at least 31.5 hectares (79 acres), and is 90m (300 feet) high.” The mountainside heap would be filled with sulphuric acid, copper, cadmium, lead and selenium, among other chemicals.

“If their cheap collection dam breaks,” says Chief Eddy Skookum, “we’ll see an environmental disaster unlike any we’ve seen in Canada before.” The heap and pond would drain into the nearby Yukon River which supplies Indigenous People throughout the Yukon with Salmon, and of course water. The threatened area is also considered to be a major tourist attraction.

Chief Skookum goes on to explain that “we are not against mining, but we will not accept a mine on our Traditional Territory that threatens the very existence of our land and water.” He further condemns The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board’s *(YESAB) Dec. 17 screening report, which recommended tentative approval of Western Copper’s proposal.

The YESAB seems awkwardly confident about it’s decision. In a recent article by the CBC, YESAB executive board member Stephen Mills is quoted as saying, “this is our process and we have identified what we believe are the significant risks of the project, and we’ve identified mitigative measures that we believe will minimize those risks;” adding, “we believe that we have done, you know, a good report, and at this point we’re really asking, ‘Are there ways to improve these mitigative measures that we’ve set out?’ ”

There’s a couple improvements the YESAB and Western Copper are struggling to avoid. It is that seemingly rare process that demands the inclusion of those effected; not merely in the capacity of an investor, but as a stakeholder. Nether can deny the Carmacks mine is being developed on Indigenous Land without the consent of the people. And nether can deny that long after Western Copper has gutted the land, Little Salmon Carmacks and other Indigenous Communities in the Yukon will still be faced with the possibility of environmental disaster that Western Copper would obviously not be held accountable for.

In my humble opinion, they should feel lucky Little Salmon Carmacks is only seeking to protect the health of the land and to ensure the community benefits economically. They could easily take it the court, and if precedent has any meaning, subsequently win.

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