Diavik wants to get going
Mine asks to initiate construction before water license issued

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 17/00) - Diavik has asked the federal government to let it begin preliminary work on its proposed diamond mine 150 kilometres east of Snare Lake before a water licence for the project has been granted.

In a Dec. 31 application, Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. asked Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for a permit to allow it to establish a quarry and prepare gravel pads for the foundations of a temporary tank farm and construction camp.

Diavik estimates approximately 50,000 cubic metres of material will be required for the work.

Diavik asked that the work, which it anticipates would take just over a month, be permitted to begin Jan. 10.

The same day the application was written it was delivered to DIAND. Before the day was out, a department official had faxed letters asking aboriginal groups for comments on Diavik's application. Jan. 7 was set as the deadline for responses.

The North Slave Metis Alliance's (NSMA) response was in two days early.

President Clem Paul wrote that the NSMA opposed the application and had applied for a judicial review of the environmental approval granted the federal government.

Though they weren't asked for input, the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee also objected to the application.

CARC, which has also asked for a judicial review of the environmental approval, noted that during the environmental review of the project, the government had stated, "All agreements and regulatory approvals must be in place before the project proceeds."

Diavik spokespersons Tom Hoefer and Doug Willy could not be reached for comment.

The DIAND land administrator who handled the application did not return phone calls from News/North before deadline. In correspondence, he noted Diavik would be required to submit a deposit to ensure it would undo the proposed work if it did not receive the approvals it still requires to construct the mine.

Diavik is currently awaiting word on its water licence application. Public hearings were held in Yellowknife Dec. 13-15. Following the hearings, the NWT Water Board requested additional information from Diavik.

Echo Bay, which is building the winter road to the mine site, reports that it is on schedule for completion by late January. Diavik hopes to haul most of the fuel and equipment it needs for this year's construction on the ice road.