Yukon rejects exploration road to Tiger Gold Deposit site
The Yukon government in Canada has rejected ATAC Resources’ proposal for an access road to the company’s Tiger Gold Deposit northeast of Keno City, citing reasons including opposition expressed by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dunn (FNNND).
The stated reasons for the rejection of the proposal highlight the concerns of FNNND about the impact of a four-season road into the undeveloped area, which is located within its traditional lands, according to local media reports.
In a statement, ATAC Resources criticised the rejection of the proposal, which consisted of an application to construct a tote road to the Tiger Gold Deposit in east-central Yukon. The road would support advanced exploration of the area, the company says.
“We are extremely disappointed with and surprised by this decision” says President and CEO Graham Downs.
“This was an application for a private, single-lane, gravel and controlled-access road in an area with existing winter trail access. If this road can’t be permitted following a positive environmental and socio-economic assessment decision and years of governmental encouragement to invest in the project, then you have to wonder if Yukon is in fact open for business.”
The company adds that it does not agree with many aspects of the government’s decision, and that in consultation with its external legal counsel, is evaluating its options.
According to the Vancouver-based exploration company, the 65-kilometre long tote road was conditionally approved by both the Yukon government and the FNNND in March 2018, under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act.
It insists that it has acted in good faith throughout the process and has taken great care to ensure the input of the FNNND and surrounding communities were duly considered when designing and routing the road.
The Tiger Gold deposit is part of the larger Rackla Gold Project, which is located within the Beaver River watershed. All of this area is located within the traditional lands of the FNNND, but the proposed road would skirt Settlement A lands, where First Nation ownership includes both the surface and sub-surface, including mines and minerals.
Speaking during the legislative assembly on December 1, Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent criticised the decision and accused the Liberals party of ‘stringing along ATAC for three years’ before turning down the proposal.
“It demonstrates that currently, there’s a climate of distrust in the mining industry of this government. It is extremely concerning when you see the CEO of a major mining company indicate that it seems like the Yukon is closed,” adds Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon, in the Yukon News.
However, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai, says that the company will have an opportunity to improve their application and reapply.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Yukon Chapter welcomed the decision to reject the proposal. Stating that the proposed road would be built just below the Peel Watershed, CPAWS – Yukon says that the route would cut through habitat for moose, grizzly bears, salmon and other wildlife.
“The science of road ecology clearly shows these species will be harmed by things like habitat loss, road avoidance, and overhunting,” CPAWS says in a statement on its website.
“One main condition of the road application was to create a sub-regional land use plan for the Beaver River Watershed. This process gave Na-Cho Nyäk Dun citizens and Yukoners the opportunity to address concerns they had with the road.
“Many pointed to the negative impact that this road would have on a landscape that is so important for hunting, trapping, recreation, and wildlife habitat. ATAC attempted to bypass this process by submitting a separate application outside of this sub-regional plan, which has been rejected by the Government,” it adds.
Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand
Rising demand for lithium is stoking prices for the electric vehicle battery metal, fueling long-delayed expansions that still may not produce adequate supplies that automakers need to meet aggressive production plans.
Growing industry optimism from higher lithium prices is a change from last year when funding for mines and processing plants dried up during the pandemic.
Albemarle Corp, Livent Corp and other producers are scrambling to make more lithium, but some analysts worry the recent price jump will not spur a big enough expansion to meet a planned wave of new EV models by mid-decade.
Since January, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation Co, along with other automakers and battery parts manufacturers, have said they will spend billions of dollars on EV plants.
U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed spending $174bn to boost EV sales and infrastructure. The European Union has similar plans, part of a rush to catch up with global EV leader China.
Those moves have helped an index of lithium prices jump 59 percent since April 2020, according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a commodity pricing provider.
The rising demand “reflects what feels like a real and fundamental turning point in our industry,” said Paul Graves, chief executive of Livent Corp, which supplies Tesla Inc. On Monday, it said it would more than double its annual lithium production to 115,000 tonnes.
Graves warned, though, that “it will be a challenge for the lithium industry to produce sufficient qualified material in the near and medium term.”
Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to double its production capacity to 175,000 tonnes by the end of the year when two construction projects are complete. Albemarle's Q1 profit beat expectations thanks to rising lithium prices. Chile’s SQM, the No. 2 producer, said its goal to expand production of lithium carbonate by 71 percent to 120,000 tonnes should be complete by December.
Australia’s Orocobre is paying $1.4 billion for smaller rival Galaxy Resources, a strategy designed to boost scale and help it grow faster in regions closer to customers.
“The next few years are going to be critical in terms of whether there’s enough available lithium supply, and that’s why you’re starting to see commodity prices start to ramp,” said Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant.
The price gains helped Albemarle and other major producers, including China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co and SQM, post big gains in first-quarter profit and boost forecasts for the year.
Even China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp, saddled with debt due to years of low lithium prices, signaled that recovering demand should help it swing to a profit this year.
Forecasts call for demand for the white metals to surge from about 320,000 tonnes annually last year to more than 1 million tonnes annually by 2025, when many automakers plan to launch new EV fleets, according to Benchmark.
Still, demand is expected to outstrip supply in 2025 by more than 200,000 tonnes, so lithium prices may need to rise to encourage producers to build more mines. That could boost the prices consumers pay for EVs. “Companies across the lithium-ion supply chain are in the best position they’ve been in for the last 5 years,” said Pedro Palandrani of the Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF , which has doubled in value in the past year.