Dogribs slam Diavik report
Group calls for new review

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 02/99) - The Dogrib Treaty 11 Council is calling for a new round of reviews for the proposed Diavik diamond mine.

"I emphasize that we are not asking (Environment Minister Christine Stewart) to reject Diavik's proposal.

"Instead, we are asking (her) to refer the project for review by an independent panel, in order to study the issues that have not yet been assessed fully or independently, and to be sure that there are effective and feasible measures in place to reduce and manage the harmful environmental effects of the project," Dogrib Grand Chief Joe Rabesca, in a June 25 letter to the minister, said.

The letter includes Dogrib views on the Comprehensive Study Report, part of the environmental assessment of the Diavik project. The environmental review is currently amid the 30-day final consultation period.

Rabesca said the Dogribs "made a great effort to understand Diavik's proposed project, and to consider the (comprehensive study) report" prepared by government officials.

At the group's 1998 general assembly, the Dogribs established a working group to study the proposal and report. The working group used traditional knowledge and hired consultants and compiled a report which it sent to Stewart. The report covers concerns from caribou to water to cumulative effects to the underground mining option.

"As a result of their work, the working group has passed a resolution disagreeing with the conclusion of the government officials who reported to (Stewart)," Rabesca also wrote in the letter.

"Our people have no confidence in (the comprehensive study) report or its conclusions."

Rabesca also said government officials who recommend the project go ahead without further environmental assessment are authorizing a "huge experiment."

Diavik Diamond Mines spokesperson Tom Hoefer said, "The Dogrib opted not to participate in the formal part of the comprehensive study report. The Dogrib opted out and chose to conduct a parallel process within the Dogrib communities."

As a result, Hoefer adds, they did not have the benefit of hearing discussions that took place at the technical review hearings (part of the environmental assessment) which took place over two weeks in Yellowknife earlier this year.

Diavik's comprehensive study report was more comprehensive than the BHP Diamonds panel review of the Ekati project, he said.

Diavik is hoping for full permitting in the second half of 1999 so it can go ahead with construction schedules linked to the 2000 ice-road window.

In anticipation of going ahead, Diavik will hold public meetings the week of July 12 in Yellowknife, Hay River, Kugluktuk and Rae-Edzo to outline the first batch of tenders associated with construction of the proposed mine. This group of tenders is expected to be worth between $50 million and $100 million.