Controversial junior mining boss Darryl Stretch has been replaced as CEO of Solid Gold Resources by its board of directors.
In a Dec. 3 press release, the company said Alan Myers, a director and chief financial officer, will serve as as interim CEO of Solid Gold "while the board works towards finding a permanent solution."
The company has been embroiled in a legal fight, led by Stretch, to resume exploration drilling on a Lake Abitibi gold property in northeastern Ontario.
Earlier this year, an Ontario Superior Court upheld an injunction by the nearby Wahgoshig First Nation to cease exploration, ruling that the company did not make an effort to consult with the community despite government requests to do so. Stretch was appealing the decision with the Divisional Court of Ontario scheduling a hearing for January.
At the time of Stretch's dismissal in early December, the company's share price on the TSX Venture Exchange was hovering at the 3.5 cent range.
The reason for the dismissal was not given in the press release and Myers was not immediately available for comment.
Solid Gold and the Ontario Prospectors Association took considerable heat from First Nation groups after a contentious presentation by Stretch in Sudbury last November, in which he classified First Nations as "hostile third-party governments." He attacked the Ontario government for failing in its duty to consult with First Nations and in passing that responsibility over to industry.
His remarks and presentation at the Ontario Exploration and Geoscience Symposium featured a cartoon image of First Nation people. The presentation drew immediate flak from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Wahgoshig First Nation, who called on the province to withdraw its support and endorsement of "racist and radical" representatives of the industry.
Wahgoshig Chief Dave Babin said his First Nation could not work with Stretch to resolve their differences and was pleased to hear of his removal.
But Babin wants nothing to do with the current management of Solid Gold Resources because of the “tone” set in working with First Nations.
Babin said if Solid Gold came under new ownership, his community would be willing to meet.
“I don't want to work with Solid Gold. (It) still has its same associates and these guys were behind Stretch 100 per cent and showed no mercy. If there is a takeover, we will look it over with great caution.”
Stretch made no apologies for his statements, nor his leadership of the company.
In a brief statement emailed to Northern Ontario Business, Stretch hinted a relationship still exists with the company.
“I have always acted, and will continue to act, in the best interests of Solid Gold Corporation.”
Days later, Stretch issued a “notice” demanding a published apology from Babin and Nishnawbe Aski Grand Chief Harvey Yesno for “slanderous and defamatory remarks” that appeared in various media outlets.
Solid Gold began drilling on Wahgoshig's territorial land in 2011, about a kilometre from the community, located about 45 kilometres east of Matheson. Babin said the company never informed the First Nation about its plans.
Babin said the First Nation has negotiated three impact benefit agreements with other resource companies so far, with others to be finalized in the near future, and has 17 memorandums of understanding.
“When companies work with First Nations, they start to understand the value of where we come from. We are not totally against development.”
Babin said Wahgoshig also has some community business ventures that can work in the resource industry on a partnership basis.
“We have a workforce that is being trained but we aren't asking companies to hire 100 per cent of our people. We are asking for opportunities and not numbers.”
Babin said business cards and messages were left with Solid Gold's drillers, asking the company to meet with the community.
“He ignored the Crown's suggestion to hold off drilling until we come to the table and talk,” said Babin. “He actually brought in another drill and moved around in the territory.”
The two parties finally met late last year, but the meeting lasted half an hour and Babin said Stretch had no intention of “doing any agreements.”
Babin said certain areas of their territory are culturally sensitive, and it is important that their interests and values are protected.
“We have grave sites and we don't want to expose them because once we start doing that, people come around and start taking the artifacts away.”
Stretch spoke about “native values” following his presentation in Sudbury and said, “What does that mean?”
“I know what arrowhead means and that is why I would use such a word and it is not my job to go hunt for arrowheads for those people.
“I use that word arrowhead because I want the public to understand what native values meant. But I was criticized rather heavily by various people for using that term.”
Stretch said in a previous interview that he has a licence and a contract with the Crown to do work on the properties.
“When we staked our ground, in our view, that is a contract with the government and now the government is changing our contract whether we like it or not,” Stretch said. “And I am just not prepared to have somebody, who I am in contract with, come and change the rules and then force me to have to go and pay a third party.”
A judge's decision to grant Solid Gold's motion for leave to appeal stated, “I see no basis in the facts of this case for an imposition of a duty to consult on Solid Gold. If the Crown wishes to delegate operational aspects of its duty, it must establish a legislative or regulatory scheme. The mining act does not presently contain such a scheme.”
New regulations added to the province's mining act do not legislate companies to consult with Aboriginal communities but they are encouraged to do so, early in the exploration process. The new regulations will come into effect in the spring of 2013.