Diamonds: Agreements Kakfwi has confidence in agreements
NNSL (OCT 23/96) - Almost three-quarters of the workforce at the proposed BHP diamond mine could be Northerners, under an agreement reached with the territorial government.

All the socio-economic agreement is lacking is the approval of BHP's board of directors.

When it was announced that the agreement was reached, Stephen Kakfwi, minister of economic development, said board approval was imminent.

BHP is hoping to mine diamonds at Lac de Gras, 300 kilometres north of Yellowknife. The mine is expected to generate gross revenues of more than $6 billion in its first 10 years of operation.

A pivotal part of the agreement was the definition given to the term Northerner.

To qualify as a Northerner a person must: reside primarily in a home -not a work camp - in the territories; have been a resident of the NWT for at least six months; or be an aboriginal person.

The definition gives aboriginal people from outside the territories as much preference, as far as employment targets are concerned, as non-aboriginal citizens of the NWT.

The agreement sets out a target of a 33-per-cent Northern workforce at the mine during the construction phase. Aboriginal people will comprise 44 per cent of Northern workers.

During operation, the work force at the mine is to be composed of 62 per cent Northerners, half of them aboriginal.

If the mine cranks up operation to 18,000 tons per day, Northern participation jumps to 72 per cent.

During this phase, aboriginal people are to comprise 50 per cent of the number of Northern workers.

Each year BHP will compile annual employment reports detailing the total number of Northern residents and aboriginals employed, breakdown of numbers into job categories, and the total number of women employed in "traditional" and "non traditional" occupations.

In spite of the hiring quotas, the agreement notes BHP "will be the sole judge" of whether applicants are qualified to be hired or promoted.

During the operation phase, BHP will provide round-trip transportation for workers travelling to points of hire within the NWT, but not pay airfare of employees travelling outside the territories.

The agreement also says, however, that if BHP fails to meet employment targets during the first two years of the operation phase, it must take further steps to remedy the deficiency.

Additionally, local businesses are to supply 28 per cent of the total annual value of goods and services purchased during the construction phase, and 70 per cent during operation.

The GNWT will be responsible for monitoring 14 socio-economic indicators of the impact the mine has on "point of hire" communities. Indicators include such statistics as average income, employment, rates of high school graduation, teen births, suicides and alcohol- and drug-related crimes