Denver, CO

Why does a Denver gold mining company want to protect land in Canada?

Matt Whittaker

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Stacked gold bullion.Bullion Vault/Flickr

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Newmont Corp. on Wednesday said it plans to acquire mining claims in Canada to make them available for indigenous land planning as it seeks native approval for mining activities on another deposit in the area.

Denver-based Newmont – the biggest gold miner in the world, both by stock market value and ounces produced – plans to buy five mining properties in the northwestern part of Canada's British Columbia province from Vancouver-based Skeena Resources once that company completes its acquisition of QuestEx Gold and Copper, also of Vancouver.

Those areas are all located in the territory of the Tahltan Nation, which parallels the Alaska-Canada border and includes 70 percent of a prolific mining area called the Golden Triangle. 

In that area, Newmont already owns a property called Saddle North, which lies between some of the mining claims it is buying from Skeena. The company says it needs Tahltan consent to move forward with the Saddle North project. 

Residents of the nearby community of Iskut worried developing an area that contains Saddle North could hamper caribou hunting and bring more industry into the already crowded mining district.

To ease those worries, Newmont plans to transfer 21,000 hectares of 55,000 hectares of the properties it buys from Skeena to the Tahltan Stewardship Initiative for land use planning. Spokeswoman Courtney Boone said the company doesn't plan to explore or develop the remainder.

“We are acquiring the land in an effort to address concerns raised by the Tahltan Nation," Newmont CEO Tom Palmer said. "The mining claims around Iskut are not being purchased for development or their mineral potential.” 

Tahltan Central Government President Chad Day did not respond to emailed questions, including whether the nation plans to agree to let the Saddle North project move forward.

In general, the nation seems amendable to mineral extraction, with its development corporation working on mining projects with several companies. Mining is part of the nation’s culture. Its people mined obsidian for thousands of years and helped miners during the gold rush in the late 1800s. 

But in 2021, the Tahltan government told Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. that it opposed the miner's operations in a culturally sensitive area after it said the company was disrespectful. Doubleview later apologized and signed a "communications and engagement agreement" with the Tahltan.

Newmont's latest activity in British Columbia isn't its first with indigenous communities in mind. In February, the company said it would relinquish more than 1,800 quartz mining claims in Canada's Yukon amid efforts to maintain environmentally sensitive areas associated with a regional land use plan involving First Nations. Also in the Yukon, Canadian authorities, including First Nations officials, gave the go-ahead for another of Newmont's gold projects in March.

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

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