Are the KINROSS Manh Choh Partners — ABOVE THE LAW In Tetlin, Alaska?
Updated: Nov 25
Note: In referencing “the Council” in this writing, readers should understand that elected Council members changed several times between 2008 and now. In reference to Tetlin’s Chiefs, there is only the former and the current.
In a media release by Tetlin’s current Chief, he said…
“The Mineral Lease through which the Tribe has authorized the Manh Choh Mining Project was authorized by the Tribe’s Village Council and by Tribal Members at a community gathering in 2008 and ratified by the Village Council and at a meeting of Tribal Members in 2014.”
I'm going to nit-pick what the current Chief says about the Mineral Lease and about what the Mineral Lease says about Tetlin.
Frankly, I do not believe the Council of 2008 authorized Brad Juneau's Mineral Lease. What it actually says is,
"...the Tribe without opposition determined to pursue the negotiation of an agreement concerning exploration..."
The operative word is "negotiation". The Mineral Lease never said the Tetlin Village Council voted and approved an agreement or Mineral Lease. In fact, the Mineral Lease never says Brad Juneau met with the Tetlin Village Council at all, only "members of the tribe". The Mineral Lease is a contract, and a contract should be exact about who, what, where, when, and why, right? Also, there are former Council members (members of the tribe) who attended the June 6 meeting mentioned in the Mineral Lease who say the Council did not even negotiate with Brad Juneau nor enter into an agreement with him to mine on Tetlin land.
As for the “community gathering”, if anyone knows, the current Chief does, (or should know) that a get-together of a few tribal members is not an official “Tribal Membership Meeting” as established by Tetlin law and therefore their input serves no purpose. The current Chief is actually contradicting Brad Juneau's language in the Mineral Lease that says
"Mr. Brad Juneau, principal of Juneau, attended a Tetlin general meeting..." and "...at this general meeting of Tetlin's members..."
None of Mr. Juneau's references correctly identify the "gathering" as an official Council Meeting or Membership Meeting. Just that he met with some folks from Tetlin. It is never identified who was speaking for "Tetlin" but we sure know who Juneau was speaking for.
This brings us to the meeting in 2014 the current Chief references. Although I am an enrolled Tetlin member I cannot recall receiving an invitation to such an important Members’ meeting about the mining project.
As I typically do to find facts about the Manh Choh and the Tetlin Mineral Lease I called upon David Flenaugh, Tetlin Native Corporation’s General Manager. Asking about the 2014 tribal Member’s meeting, David emailed me a copy of a document — the Tetlin Stability Agreement that was the purpose and result of the meeting. Now found on the internet, this Agreement is published in the federal SECs but not recorded in Alaska.
The Stability Agreement, like the Mineral Lease, appears to be written completely to meet the desires of and give advantage to the mining operators. Also, like the Mineral Lease, the document reads like something created by an army of lawyers. Complicated as it is, I can say I did not find anything to make Tetlin want to stand up and cheer. It was more like my tribe just rolled over for the miners.
I will try to give my basic understanding of the Tetlin Stability Agreement. The first thing I did was Google “Stability Agreement” to find out what it is. Give it a try. Good luck. I could not find anything used in United States law. I did finally land on a definition that says, “A contractual agreement between a government and a foreign investor that neither party will unilaterally change specified provisions of the contract as long as the LSA (legal stability agreement) remains in effect.” I’m lost as to why the Miner’s chose this instrument to subdue Tetlin. I cannot imagine that everyone of anyone from Tetlin remotely understood what they signed.
Next was to learn about the Stability Agreement’s timing. Brad Juneau, looking for money to get to Tetlin’s gold, sold his Mineral Lease rights to CONTANGO for a tidy sum and leadership position. Then working as CONTANGO, he was then on to Royal Gold (dba Peak Gold) for more money. Evidently Royal/Peak Gold saw the Mineral Lease had issues, so they orchestrated a special meeting to tie up CONTANGO’s loose ends.
One issue was that in early 2014, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) had “established precedents for taking lands owned by tribes in fee into trust.” Tribes holding land in Alaska, to include Tetlin, were being educated on the benefits of their lands being held under federal trust to further their self-determination. This did not sit well with the miners’ plans for Tetlin. Something had to be done to stop the tribe from considering such an alliance with the BIA.
Another loose end I found was that the 2008 Mineral Lease violated Tetlin law by saying the tribe had waived sovereign immunity when this was just a misrepresentation made by the former Chief and Brad Juneau and not the tribe.
Who knows what other issues the miners found that had them wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth.
To resolve their issues with the 2008 Mineral Lease, an extreme action was to be taken by CONTANGO, Royal Gold and their tribal agent, Tetlin’s Chief — remember, we now know that the former Chief, again violating Tetlin law, was paid $5,000 a month and bonuses, to represent CONTANGO – not the Council or the tribe.
This is where it gets downright scary, at least for me — The extreme action taken by this trio was to put themselves beyond Tetlin’s Laws! The Council and participating Tetlin Members were led into signing resolutions adopting an Ordinance Restricting Application of Tetlin Law to Existing Mineral Lease.
For their benefit, the mining operators CHANGED TETLIN’s LAWS so they did not have to OBEY THEM.
I will end my blog here to let you think over what you have read. Before leaving, I will, however, ask the following questions of my tribe…
If you attended the 2014 meeting and signed the resolution putting the miners and their Mineral Lease beyond your tribe’s laws, did you know then that Tetlin laws (and possibly other laws) had already been broken…
The Mineral Lease was unauthorized (only one officer signed)
·The Mineral Lease claimed land the tribe does not own (780,000 acres)
·Sovereign Immunity was not waived by the tribe
·The former Chief was paid under contract to the miners for land transactions
·The Tetlin Council is falsely represented as being an ANCSA village corporation
There seems to be much about the Manh Choh mining project Tetlin members didn’t and possibly still don't know about. There was the former Chief’s contract, the Finder’s Agreement with Rickey Hendry, a lot about the Mineral Lease, and the Stability Agreement making changes to Tetlin’s Ordinances. What other damaging surprises do the mining partners have in store for us about our land and our rights?
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