De Beers is seek­ing First Na­tion sup­port

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - METRO NEWS -

An ex­plo­ration team from De Beers Canada was ex­pected to be in north­ern On­tario’s re­mote Weenusk First Na­tion on Tues­day, to seek com­mu­nity sup­port to con­duct di­a­mond ex­plo­ration work.

Weenusk First Na­tion, or Peawanuck, is a small com­mu­nity of nearly 400 peo­ple, 1,400 km north of Toronto, on the shores of the Winisk River.

The Cree com­mu­nity is di­vided on whether or not they sup­port min­ing in their eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive and undis­turbed tra­di­tional lands. Many live off the land, fish­ing and hunt­ing cari­bou. They are con­cerned about the con­se­quences of min­ing de­vel­op­ment.

De Beers is one of the world’s largest di­a­mond mine com­pa­nies, op­er­at­ing with its part­ners in 20 coun­tries across five con­ti­nents. Each year, the com­pany pulls 600,000 carats of di­a­monds out of the Vic­tor Di­a­mond Mine, 90 kilo­me­tres west of At­tawapiskat First Na­tion. But the Vic­tor Mine nears the end of its life span in four years.

De Beers is now look­ing for fresh sources for di­a­monds. North­ern On­tario is be­lieved to be rife with many pre­cious re­sources that have been dif­fi­cult to mine for a num­ber of rea­sons — in­clud­ing eco­log­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity of the land, re­mote­ness and the need for First Na­tions agree­ment. De Beers cur­rently has a $1-bil­lion in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment at the Vic­tor Mine and it hopes to ex­pand on that by open­ing Tango, an ex­ten­sion mine seven kilo­me­tres away. Tango’s en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment is still on­go­ing.

Weenusk band coun­cilor Ge­orgina Pepan said she is not go­ing to the meet­ing on Tues­day.

“I have al­ready said what I had to say and I’m not in­ter­ested in min­ing,” said Pepan, she added the chief will also not be in at­ten­dance as he is out of town.

i have al­ready said what i had to say and i’m not in­ter­ested in min­ing. Ge­orgina Pepan

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