Attawapiskat First Nation Seeks For DeBeers to Clean Up their Mess

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Attawapiskat Debeers Victor Mine
Attawapiskat Debeers Victor Mine

ATTAWAPISKAT FN – DeBeers Canada (DBC) is seeking Ontario Government approval for a third landfill waste site to be built and filled up at the Victor Mine Site, located in a vulnerable James Baywetlands area, and in a place of critical importance to Attawapiskat. The Victor Mine is now in the closure phase, where decommissioning and remediation are supposed to leave the landscape in a clean and safe state. The mine operated from 2005 to 2019 and with an annual production rate is 2.7 million tonnes a year, or about 600,000 carats a year in diamond grade.

“DeBeers could and should be transporting that waste through the winter road it has maintained for the last many years, to markets and facilities south of us, where it can be treated and reused,” says Attawapiskat Chief David Nakogee. “We’re talking about 100,000 cubic metres of material that could be reused or recycled. DeBeers unilaterally cancelled the contract for the winter road project because they said they don’t need it. Of course they don’t need it when they have the alternative of turning our lands into their garbage dump instead of building a winter road.”

The manner in which DBC is seeking Ontario approval for the extra landfill is suspect says Chief Nakogee.

“A 200,000 cubic metre demolition landfill could fit about four CN Towers. A 100,000 cubic metre landfill could serve a medium-sized Ontario municipality for 20 years or more. A landfill that big requires a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment,” says environmental consultant to Attawapiskat, Don Richardson. “But if Ontario agrees that DeBeers can split the demolition landfilling into two pieces of about 100,000 cubic metres each, DeBeers can side-step the time and costs involved in planning a big landfill project through a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment. If Ontario lets DeBeers do this, I expect a lot of Ontario municipalities will be looking to see if they can follow the same landfill splitting approach, and things will get pretty interesting for people who live around future landfill projects in southern Ontario.”

Without conducting a full audit or examining alternatives to landfilling, DBC has applied for 97,000 cubic metres of landfill volume, which is just shy of the 100,000 cubic metres threshold which would trigger a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment. DBC very recently got approval for a demolition landfill of exactly the same size, and now they are asking Ontario to approve a second demolition landfill bringing the total diamond mine project demolition waste volume to almost 200,000 cubic metres.

This request from the diamond miner comes on the heels of DBC also seeking approval from Ontario to stop key monitoring of water quality at the mine, through exemptions in its permit to take water. And this new diamond mine garbage problem comes while DBC has stored much of its organic waste on the mine site in over 50 large shipping containers while it tries to get an incinerator functioning to burn this mine garbage.

Attawapiskat is firmly rejecting all of this, and letting the Ontario Government know. Whether Ontario will pay any attention remains to be seen.

It was just announced that a rare 102 carat diamond the size of a small egg was discovered at the Victor Mine and is set to be auctioned off by Sothebys possibly for about $30 million.

“DeBeers has profited a lot from the Victor Diamond Mine and will profit even more,” says Chief Nakogee. “These expensive diamonds come from my Nation’s homeland, in our backyard, and yet we continue to live in horrendous conditions where we can’t even drink the water here from the taps. We keep watching the wealth of our Traditional Territory, from the waters and lands to the wildlife, get industrialized. We keep watching others walk off with the profits of that industrialization, leaving us to bear the burden and the waste. When DeBeers has the money to transport, recycle and re-use materials, and to properly monitor the effects of the mine on the lakes and rivers, they must be required to do so. We will not tolerate excuses when so much is at stake.”