MAC: Mines and Communities

Diamond review will go ahead, De Beers says

Published by MAC on 2007-04-03

Diamond review will go ahead, De Beers says

by CBC News

3rd April 2007

De Beers Canada says it will hold a public environmental assessment of its proposed Gahcho Kué diamond mine project now that it has lost a Northwest Territories Supreme Court bid to have the review quashed.

Company spokeswoman Linda Dorrington said Tuesday the company will work with the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board on a work plan for the assessment.

In a 19-page decision released Monday, Northwest Territories Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau upheld the board's order for the review of the proposed mining project, 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife and just east of De Beers's other northern diamond project at Snap Lake.

The company had challenged the order, arguing that the board made a number of mistakes in assessing whether the project warranted a review. It alleged the board, which has the job of determining if the project is environmentally safe, was not thorough in its initial environmental assessment.

But Charbonneau said that the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which governs the board, allows it flexibility in the way it assesses projects.

Dorrington said that all De Beers wanted was certainty that the board was doing the right thing. She said the court's judgment was necessary because each diamond mine in the Northwest Territories has undergone different review processes.

"We felt we needed this confirmation in order to provide us with assurance that our permits would not be subject to any future challenge," she said.

"We have always welcomed a full, thorough and comprehensive environmental assessment and we are very pleased that the way is now clear for us to continue with that."

Related Story:

De Beers fights to avoid full-scale review of diamond project

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 2, 2006 | 1:25 PM CT CBC News

De Beers Canada is taking the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board to court over its handling of the Gahcho Kue diamond project near Lutsel K'e, N.W.T.

De Beers alleges the board, which has the job of determining if the project is environmentally safe, was not thorough in its initial environmental assessment. The diamond giant is calling on the courts to quash a board order in June that requires it to conduct a public environmental review.

De Beers says that instead of looking at the cumulative environmental effects of the project during that earlier assessment phase, the board referred the project to an environmental impact review, a long and costly process.

"The review board was required S to consider the impact of the development on the environment, including any cumulative impact that is likely to result, the significance of any such impact, and whether mitigative or remedial measures are necessary," the company's legal application states.

"The review board failed to consider these matters and instead deferred their consideration to the environmental impact review."

As a result, De Beers says the board erred in law and exceeded its jurisdiction.

De Beers is also wondering why the Gahcho Kue mine has to go through the more rigorous review than their Snap Lake project.

An open pit

Martin Haefele, who speaks for the Mackenzie Valley review board, says the difference is Snap Lake is an underground mine, while the Gahcho Kue project will be an open-pit mine near the treeline.

Haefele says it requires the draining of a lake and therefore poses a greater threat to fish and wildlife.

"As we all know, caribou numbers have declined in recent years and there is a very big concern the diamond mines may have something to do with it, and this one is proposed on a known migration route," he said.

The board wants the environmental effects of the mine to be discussed at public hearings in Lutsel K'e, Fort Resolution, Behchoko and Detah, the communities nearest the project, located about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Whether those hearings take place depends on the judgment of the territory's Supreme Court.

Further information:

Jamie Kneen
Communications & Outreach Coordinator ofc. (613) 569-3439
MiningWatch Canada cell: (613) 761-2273
250 City Centre Ave., Suite 508 fax: (613) 569-5138
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 6K7 e-mail:


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