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And Mining Operations
Canadian Aboriginal Communities and Mining Operations
The diamond mining industry is one among the main contributor to the economic development in North Canada. The industry gained momentum upon the discovery of large diamond deposits in the Northwest Territories during the early 1990s. The strengthened growth and development in the region brought by the newly found industry generally affected the communities in the Northwest Territories of Canada, specifically those communities situated near the mines. As of year 2006, there were three large diamond mines in the North Canada making the region the third largest diamond producer as of that year. This paper aims to study how the aboriginal communities worked closely with the Diavik Diamond Mines, and how the rich industry has affected the lives and well-being of people living near the mining area.
The Aboriginal Communities
There were five aboriginal communities in the near vicinity of Diavik, and they are expected to play an important role in the mining industry, being mainly as participants of signed agreements on the concerns of mining industry in the area. The Diavik Diamond Mine came into a Socio-Economic Monitoring Agreement with the Northwest Territories Government in order to formally corroborate the firm’s guarantee of providing for the training, employment, scholarship programs and other economic opportunities to the aboriginal communities. The five aboriginal communities, on the other hand, consented into the arrangement and became signatories to the individual Participation Agreements. The five groups included the Tlicho Government, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the North Slave Metis Alliance, the Kitikmeot Inuit Assocation, Lutsel Ké Dene First Nation. These groups of communities have been the settlers of the region and have adapted the natural of way of living in the process. It is the environment that molded their community and heritage. It is the task of the DDMI people to adapt to study and adapt to this structure in order to create a harmonious relationship during their time of operation.
Aboriginal Groups and Environmental Assessment
The interest of a resource developer in mining in the Aboriginal community region entails a proposal that includes the planned open pit mine, the construction of eight kilometer access road and two electrical transmission lines. The mining project may be beneficial to the community as a whole, but concerns about the environment entails consultation with the government, but most especially with the local community that will be affected in pursuance of the project. The consultation may lead to several proposed measures to alleviate the concerns of aboriginals. After a common solution is met and agreed upon, the company may receive the approval to begin with the project, but this after a series of consultation and prior consent of the involved aboriginal communities (Canadian, 2014).
In March 8, 2000, the Diavik Diamonds Project Environmental Agreements was singed between the Diavik Incorporated, the government of Northwest Territories and the five aboriginal groups near the vicinity of the diamond mine (Palmer and Tehan, 2006). The environmental agreement provides how the mining project will conform to the environmental monitoring and reporting as set in the arrangement and the conditions of the reclamation security deposit requirements for the Diavik project (Palmer and Tehan, 2006). Several of the components contained in the agreement are the provision that the aboriginal people shall have foremost representation in the project's Environmental Advisory Review Board. This guarantees that the First Nation Communities are given the chance to have an active voice concerning environmental management concerns. Becoming part of the Environmental Advisory Board gave the locals the assurance that the mining projects are conducted in accordance with the environment protocol.
The involvement of the aboriginal communities in the Environmental Agreement was in line with the approach of the Government of Canada in consulting the original settlers as part of the government’s statutory and contractual obligations, good governance and the common duty to consult the concerned citizens (Canadian, 2014). The assurance that the aboriginal groups are satisfactorily referred to on any contemplation actions of the government concerning Aboriginal rights are provided for in the Constitution Act of 1982 (Canadian, 2014). The Environmental Assessment acts by coordinating consultation with the affected community and opens the opportunity for the group to comment on the potential effect of the project to the environment, and to the aboriginal rights and treaties (Canadian, 2014).
Other commitments as contained in the environmental agreement provided that the communities are given the certainty that Diavik will conform to a previously set arrangement to restore the mine site after the life of the project. The mining project shall perform a “clean up” as it progresses in its mining operation. Community consultation and involvement shall provide the needed knowledge for the project consultants in order for them to be able to draw the necessary steps to rehabilitate the region after the closure of the mines. As part of its commitment to the community, Diavik has in place a high security measure that is regularly reviewed and updated to adapt to the anticipated liability to the environment. The act of reclaiming the site means that the project shall aim to refurbish the mining site for it to be usable even after the project’s extraction of the diamond reserves.
There is always a conflicting interest between the aboriginal people and the mining companies when it comes to the environment. These is especially so in the aboriginal communities in the Northwest region where the original settlers wanted to preserve the environment as much as possible, a contrast to the objective of a mining company to exploit the ground for minerals for profit. This is the reason why many resource developers chose not to invest in some of the Canadian reserves due to the high demands of the communities. It was however, different for Diavik Diamond Mines as the company was not only keen on getting the government and the five aboriginal communities as signatories to an agreement.
Respect for culture and heritage is integral to the way Rio Tinto conducts
business. Wherever we operate, our businesses work with local and
indigenous communities on the protection of their cultural heritage.
We do this because it is the right thing to do and because there is a strong
business case for doing so. We recognize that protecting culture and heritage
is important to communities and, therefore, it is important to us. This is why
we engage so thoroughly with our host communities to build strong
relationships, understand cultural heritage values and manage the local
and regional impacts of our operations (Rio, 2011)
The company, a recipient of several awards for being an eco-friendly resource developer, made sure that the concerns contained in the agreements are being met. The instances where DDMI showed its intent to meet the specified agreement can be seen in two among other programs:
a. Fish Palatability Study- This study was conducted in order to evaluate the health condition of fish near the mining vicinity. The regular monitoring on the palatability and texture of the lake fish in de Gras was with the involvement of the community, where the representatives evaluated the fish according to its appearance before cooking and its taste after it is cooked (Rio, 2011).
b. Caribou Fencing- The community concern on the welfare of the Caribou that are being trapped in the Processed Kimberlite Containment Area was immediately addressed after consultations with the community leaders. In accordance with the traditional knowledge of the nature of the caribous, a fencing plan was designed in order to protect the valued deer in the region.
Figure 1.1below showed steps for planning, monitoring, and reporting on contributions to cultural heritage: Source: Rio Tinto. 2011. Why Heritage Matters.
The figure above indicated the how the Diavik Diamond Mining outlined its action plan in its want to preserve cultural heritage in the host region. This means that the company has drawn diverse means by which to help in the continuation of traditional and cultural heritage, with the objective of creating a better relation with the locals while being able to attain its environmental obligations as provided for in the initial agreement. Among the cultural heritage goals, targets and indicators is the better integration of cultural heritage into the business and adequate provision of heritage practitioners on site. The targets are three full time heritage practitioners, twenty members on a regular monitoring roster by the end of 2012. It is the goal of the company that all the functions within the company are aware of the cultural heritage by the end of 2012 (Rio, 2011). The indicators would be the number of heritage practitioners employed as provided on a quarterly or annual report.
It is the commitment of Diavik Diamond Mine to provide employment to the locality upon the opening of its mining project. The employment opportunity serves to bridge the role of the aboriginal community, not only in preserving their environment but also in becoming a member of the workforce. The 2003 to 2005 phase of the firm’s mining operation proved to be fruitful for this objective as the firm was able to hire around 221 on annual average from among the aboriginal northerners (Aboriginal, 2006). The DDMI agreement provided that the company shall hire from all other Canadians and other applicants after giving priority and due consideration from applicants from the following group:
a. First priority from interested aboriginal applicants;
b. Second priority to Northerners who have been residing within the Northwest Territories or the West Kitimeot Region for at least six months prior to hiring;
c. Third priority are applicants residing in the Northwest Territories or the West Kitikmeot Region (Diavik).
In 2004, Diavik decided to implement the Aboriginal Employment Strategy that is geared not only towards employing and retaining man power, but also of coordinating the development of various training and apprentice programs for the locals. As a result, the firm was able to train northerners to work as electricians, technicians and in other various technical works in the mining field. The Company has partnered with academic institutions in the region, as well as with aboriginal governments and contractors to be able to provide training to students with the purpose of being able to pass trades entrance examinations (CIBJO, 2009).
It was also the objective of Diavik to bring up the skill of qualified aboriginal individuals in supervisory and management positions. In line with this, the company sponsored the Aboriginal Leadership Development Program that is aimed at training in accordance with the company’s leadership competencies (Aboriginal, 2006). For the Diavik operations, the Workplace Learning Centre was operated in the mine site, and Diavik initiated the coordination and development of training and apprentice programs (Natural, 2014). The training site is being administered by two mentors and provides materials for the labours to upgrade their skills. The company envisioned a substantial increase in the number of new apprenticeships by the year 2020.
Initially, the Diavik Diamond Mines envisioned 66% hires coming from the northerners with 40% of them from the aboriginal communities. Having gone through a decade of operation in the Northwest Territories Diavik intensified its campaign to provide more employment to the aboriginal communities. The result is the employment of 485 northerners of whom 171 came from the aboriginal community. The company has also supported the Mining Industry Human Resources council’s as it served as the pilot site of the program. As a result, there were 96 employees who have completed their certification as underground miners, mineral processors and workplace trainers (Natural, 2014).
The Diavik project has also caused the growth of business in the North Western Territories as it implemented policies that are intended to maximise business opportunities among local businesses. The company has agreed to prioritize, not only the labor sector but also the aboriginals and northern businesses. There are several measures identified that will enhance project-related opportunities:
a. the preparation of annual business opportunities to be able to identify future procurement requirements of the project;
b. provision of capital to local businesses;
c. closely cooperation with the community to be able to create business and working opportunity in the long term;
d. opening of subcontracting opportunities to northern businesses;
e. the possibility of joint ventures with northern businesses
With the goal of the resource developer to help in the helping in the growth and economic development of the aboriginal communities in the region, it committed to purchase a total of 38% of its total needs for goods and services from among the northern business during the construction period and about 70% during the operations (Diavik, 1999). The process of creating business for the aboriginal community is not only advantageous to the local businesses, but also to DDMI due to the proximity of the needed resources for its project. The Diavik project is estimated to last only for 20 years from the initial date of its operation, but the company has the resolved to “increase the capacity and the diversity of the Northern economy to make sustainable economic development viable” (Weber, )
Social/Cultural and Community Support
Among the contribution of Diavik Diamond Mines to the aboriginal communities is the construction of the large scale wind-diesel hybrid facility which is in turn used to deliver power to the mines starting on September 2012. The number of years spent in research and development of renewable energy resources paid off upon the construction of four 2.3 mega- watt turbines in 2012. The alternative energy resource is able to provide for almost half of the mine’s energy requirements (Natural, 2014).
Another project that is aimed at helping the community is the provision of funds for scholarship grants to deserving aboriginal and Northerners. The Diavik Community Scholarship Fund was set in 2013 to help students pursue a career in the mining sector (Yellowknife). It requires that the applicant is enrolled to a post- secondary course such as Mine Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, Geology and other mining related courses (Yellowknife). Further, the scholarship grant is to be given to NWT or Kitikmeot Aboriginal Students or other NWT or West Kitikmeot applicants. The grant may be given to applicants who meet the aforementioned qualifications in addition to considering their academic achievement, community involvement and other factors deemed necessary (Yellowknife). The initial donation made by the company amounted to $25,000. These forms of donation are among the ways by which the company show its resilient sense of accountability by giving back to the communities the needed provision for growth and development.
More Donations and Sponsorships
Several other sponsorships and donations are made by DDMI in line with its social welfare programs. One donation for which Diavit became an annual benefactor is its act of donating diamonds to local organizations that aim to increase the gem’s value through fund raising. In partnership with Crossworks manufacturing, a one carat diamond is annually donated to the Yellowknife Seniors Society for the group’s annual raffle (Diavik, 2012). The NWT disabilities council also received a polished diamond which helped it raise an amount of $20,000 in one of tis raffle (Diavik, 2012). Other donations include a $300, 000 cash provided to a number of social welfare programs across the communities in near its vicinity.
The Diavik Diamond Mine being only one of the three diamond mining company in the NWT has integrated well with the aboriginal community even at the initial phase of prospecting for a venture in the region. The company sought, not only the government as signatories to the agreement but also the aboriginal communities who are affected by their operation. Diavik and the locals have work well with each other despite the interest of the former for profit and the later for the preservation of their environment. The diamond mining company had wanted the participation of the affected community as their suggestion and comments matters in guiding the company to an improved and community friendly operation. In addition to that, priority is also given to the aboriginals in terms of employment and training opportunities. Today, over half of its operating life in the region, the Diavik Diamond Mines envisioned a sustainably developed region after the expiration of the project in 2020.
Aboriginal Participation in Mining Bulletin. 2006. Diavik Diamond Mines. Retrieved from www.miningnorth.com
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. 2014. Aboriginal Consultation in Federal Environmental Assessment. Retrieved from www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca
CIBJO. The World Jewellery Confederation. Community and Environmental Projects at the Diavik Diamond Mine, Canada
Diavik Diamonds Project Socio-Economic Monitoring Agreement. Retrieved from www.miningnorth.com
Diavik Diamond Mine. 2012 Sustainable Development Report. Retrieved from www.riotinto.com
Yellowknife Community Foundation. Diavik Community Scholarship Fund. Retrieved from www.yellowknifecommunityfoundation.ca
Natural Resources Canada. 2014. Diavid Diamond Mines- Northwest Territories. Retrieved from www.nrcan.gc.ca
Palmer, L., Tehan, M., 2006. Anchored to the land: Asserting and Recognising Aboriginal Jurisdiction in the Northwest Territories', in Langton, Mazel, Palmer, Shain, Tehan (eds), Settling with Indigenous People: Modern treaty and agreement-making (The Federation Press, 2006).
Rio Tinto. 2011. Why Cultural Heritage Matters. Retrieved from www.riotinto.com
Weber, J., Diavik Diamond Mines: The Effect of Devolution on Resource Development and the Subsequent Effect on Aboriginal Communities
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