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  • Writer's pictureKevin Gunter

What does the KINROSS team know that they are not telling us?

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

As I have said in previous blogs, I am a Tetlin tribal member and family of Tetlin Native Corporation (TNCorp) shareholders. Although the Tetlin Village Council has never graced me with a dividend from the gold mining operation, I still have a strong interest in what the Manh Choh is doing or is not doing for my tribe — so I am forever looking for facts.

In my research, I came across an email from Brenna Schaake, KINROSS’ External Affairs Supervisor. It was a media statement about TNCorp contesting the KINROSS team’s Mineral Lease with the Tetlin Village Council / Native Village of Tetlin (the Council). She says...

“Our mineral lease with the Native Village of Tetlin provides access to explore and develop mineral resources on Tetlin Tribal lands…”

Notice — Ms. Schaake speaking for KINROSS, does not tell us facts about Tetlin’s land. She does not tell us that “the land” the KINROSS team claims from the Council in the mineral lease is “780,000 acres”. That’s a lot of land… almost the size of the state of Rhode Island! And… its a lot more land than the Council owns.

I often review TNCorp's news page. I appreciate that they publish facts that can be verified. On their website they tell you who, what, where, when, and how much! In this case; how much land.

TNCorp lets us know the Council publicly declares ownership of 643,147 acres in their Community Plans not the 780,000 acres as said in the mineral lease.

Ms. Schaake’s email also echoes misinformation the KINROSS team repeatedly says about ANCSA. She says…

“Please note that the Native Village of Tetlin owns in fee the surface and subsurface rights of their land and the Manh Choh mine is entirely on this Tetlin-owned land.

They chose to opt out of ANCSA because of this reason…”

This is not true. Where do they get such utter nonsense? Maybe Ms. Schaake is not an Alaskan or maybe Ms. Schaake does not know about Google. There is excellent online expertise about ANCSA. It will tell you that neither the Tetlin tribe, nor the Council made decisions in the ANCSA process. TNCorp was established as the village corporation in order to work with Congress and receive land. TNCorp did not opt out of ANCSA. They opted to receive surface and subsurface land rights in lieu of cash and not to be under a Regional Corporation.

Reading the Mineral Lease (I am only guessing here), it seems that the KINROSS team purposefully tosses out so much misinformation about ANCSA and TNCorp because of the questionable statement they make in the mineral lease...

“WHEREAS; Tetlin holds fee simple title to surface and subsurface estates in its former reservation lands pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, 43 U.S.C. §_§1601-1629 ("ANCSA") based on its refusal of a cash settlement…”

How can this be a true statement? How can Tetlin [the Council] hold title to “former reservation lands pursuant to ANCSA” when Congress never granted land to tribes or tribal governments only to Alaska Native Corporations? Now, combine this statement with the mineral lease claiming 780,000 acres of non-existing land and the mineral lease claiming the Council is “a village corporation pursuant to ANCSA” (possibly to get government permits to access ANCSA land they did not own?) is it just possible the mineral lease needs to be under serious scrutiny by somebody?

Let’s look at the basics of TNCorp’s protest to the mineral lease and wanting to “reclaim their land”.

  • The 2008 Mineral Lease claims rights to 780,000 acres that includes Corporation land and TNCorp was never asked permission or even informed of the Lease.

  • TNCorp declares ownership to a minimum of 100,000 acres of its original 743,147 acres granted by Congress under ANCSA.

  • TNCorp further declares that 643,147 acres were wrongfully conveyed to Tetlin Village Council as proven in a lawsuit.

  • The Council declares ownership of 643,147 acres because reversal of the wrongful 1996 land transfer remains unsettled.

So, let’s do some simple math — if the Council owns 643,147 acres, and TNCorp owns 100,00 acres, how can the KINROSS team claim the Council gave them 780,000 acres in the mineral lease and that none of the land belongs to TNCorp?

I have even read press releases where the KINROSS team says they are actively mining on 675,000 acres owned by the Council, but the mineral lease says 780,000.

I have also found a 2011 SEC statement made by CONTANGO where they pretty much admit they do not hold clear title to the land they claim in the mineral lease with Tetlin. They say…

"We have no assurance of title to our Properties.

With respect to our Tetlin Lease, we retained title lawyers to conduct a general examination of title to the mineral interest prior to executing the lease. Prior to conducting any mining activity, however, we will obtain a full title review of the applicable lease to identify more fully any deficiencies in title to the lease and, if there are deficiencies, to identify measures necessary to cure those defects to the extent reasonably possible. However, such deficiencies may not be cured by us. It does happen, from time to time, that the examination made by title lawyers reveals that the title to properties is defective, having been obtained in error from a person who is not the rightful owner of the mineral interest desired. In these circumstances, we may not be able to proceed with our exploration and development of the lease site or may in costs to remedy a defect. It may also happen, from t me to time, that we may elect to proceed with mining work despite defects to the title identified in a title opinion."

This statement makes me think that maybe, just maybe… that CONTANGO (KINROSS partner) may have known they did not have clear title to the land they were claiming in the mineral lease and that maybe Tetlin's Chief didn't have the right to give them the land in the first place.

Wouldn’t it be great if KINROSS did what TNCorp does and give us the facts? Repeating Dermot Cole’s request to KINROSS, Some More FACTS Please.


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