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First Nation Group at Loggerheads with De Beers

Apr 7, 2021 8:01 AM   By Leah Meirovich
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An Indigenous group in Canada is protesting plans by De Beers to build a new landfill at its Victor mine site, claiming the territory is of cultural significance.

The Attawapiskat are opposed to the landfill, which would be used for mine-demolition waste during the closure and rehabilitation of the site, fearing it will devastate the James Bay wetlands area, the group said Tuesday. That site has been of “critical, spiritual and subsistence importance to the Kattawapiskak Cree people for thousands of years,” it explained.

The First Nation group is also concerned the landfill could turn into another incident similar to the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in Australia by Rio Tinto last year. That area was a sacred Indigenous site to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, and was thousands of years old. The mining giant blasted it to make room for the expansion of one of its deposits.

The proposed landfill at the Victor site was not included in the original plans of the mine’s approved environmental assessment, the group asserted.

“The manner in which De Beers is seeking Ontario approval for the new landfill is suspect,” said Attawapiskat First Nation council member Sylvia Koostachin-Metatawabin. “De Beers has applied for 97,000 cubic meters of landfill volume, which is just shy of the 100,000 cubic meters threshold which would trigger a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment under Ontario law. This level gets the landfill under the legal radar, but does not mean it would be any less threatening.”

However, De Beers said it had worked closely with the Attawapiskat First Nation when first planning the Victor mine, and noted that none of the area proposed for the landfill had been identified as a cultural or heritage site.

“De Beers has a deep respect for the Indigenous communities close to our operations and projects, and the identification and preservation of cultural and heritage resources is a fundamental part of the process we undertake before and during our mining activities, as well as in our closure planning,” a De Beers spokesperson told Rapaport News Wednesday. “At no stage during these studies was the site of the proposed landfill identified as being of cultural or spiritual significance.”

Further, if the Canadian government approves the landfill, it will be located within the existing approved mine site, which already contains a landfill, and would not result in any additional disturbance to other areas, the spokesperson noted. That landfill will be rehabilitated along with the rest of the mine area as part of the closure, he added.

Images: The Victor mine. (De Beers)
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Tags: Attawapiskat, Attawapiskat First Nation, Canada First Nation, David Johnson, De Beers, James Bay wetlands, Juukan Gorge, Leah Meirovich, Rapaport News, Rio Tinto, Sylvia Koostachin-Metatawabin, Victor Mine
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