By GIANNI UBRIACO
The negotiations between the Attawapiskat First Nation and Canada’s diamond mining giant De Beers came to a happy ending earlier this fall.
An agreement between the two companies was reached on Oct. 22 and it allows for both parties to proceed with the winter program for the Victor Diamond project.
“We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the community,” says Linda Dorrington, the manager of communications for De Beers Canada.
“We have put a lot of work into this project over the years and we have spent a great deal of time building a relationship with the community. We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with them, which is mutually beneficial and allows the project to continue.”
As part of the agreement, De Beers Canada agreed to make an immediate investment in the Attawapiskat community towards a permanent education and training facility. Once developed, the facility would be owned by the Attawapiskat First Nation, regardless of whether or not a mine is constructed at Victor. Plans are already underway for construction of the educational facility, but no date has yet been set for its completion.
“We are very pleased to be able to make a difference in this community, and add value to the community through the training centre, which we will be building for them,” Dorrington says.
The Attawapiskat First Nation, agreed to support the winter program on the Victor project, which will allow for the completion of a feasibility study.
“This agreement is a win-win solution for both partners,” says Thomas Tookate, the general manager for the Attawapiskat Development Corp.
“The Attawapiskat First Nation is excited by the partnership opportunities with De Beers, which would lead to greater employment and business opportunities. However, the long-term success of the partnership will also depend upon our Treaty relationship with the government by providing the necessary resources to negotiate a proper (impact benefit agreement) and to ensure that our community’s land rights and environmental concerns are adequately addressed.”
As a direct result of the agreement, there will be approximately 40 full-time positions available to Attawapiskat First Nation community members for the winter months during the exploration phase.
Tookate says it was also very important and noteworthy that the Attawapiskat First Nation stayed true to their beliefs and did not falter by giving up their own rights. He adds that it was his hope that other First Nations will look towards the agreement and use it as an example for agreements they may want to sign with other companies looking to develop projects on their traditional lands.
As part of the agreement, both parties have also agreed to work together on environmental issues and permits for the winter program. They have also agreed to start negotiations on an impact benefit agreement (IBA) by January of 2003.
A positive feasibility study, successful negotiating of an IBA, the issuing of the necessary permits and the provocation of funding by the De Beers board of directors need to be in placebefore a decision to construct a diamond mine is made.