Det’on Cho signs agreement to run operations at N.W.T. rare earths mine – by Avery Zingel (CBC News North – January 24, 2020)

Det’on Cho Nahanni Construction Corp. signs agreement with Cheetah at Vancouver mining conference

In what could be a Canadian first, an N.W.T. first nation has signed an agreement to run mining operations on a project in their own traditional territory.

Det’on Cho Nahanni Construction Corporation, owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, will run operations on the Nechalacho rare earth mineral project between the Dene communities of Dettah and Lutselk’e. It was announced at the Annual Mineral Exploration Roundup mining conference this week in Vancouver.

Yellowknives Dene Chief Ernest Betsina said the signing marks a transition from the first nation being “passive witnesses to major projects to being key participants.”

Cheetah Resources’ Nechalacho project is moving toward small-scale production of rare earths like neodymium-praseodymium, which can be used in wind turbines. Mining is slated to begin this year at the project, subject to approval at the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.

Det’on Cho competed for the project, which will create roughly 20 and 25 jobs with six months of employment each year for three years, according to president and CEO Paul Gruner. Asked how many jobs will directly benefit members of the first nation, Gruner said it will be a “best effort” and that the company is already seeking out potential candidates.

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