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Dene to fight Drybones Bay development
Chief Sangris responds to review board's recent approval of Debogorski diamond drill program

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Friday, January 13, 2012

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation will continue to fight development in the Drybones Bay area, Chief Edward Sangris said in response to the most recent approval of drilling there.

Last Friday, Alex Debogorski's proposed 10-hole diamond exploration drill program, about 50 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife on Great Slave Lake, became the latest Drybones Bay area exploration project approved by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.

The board said the proposed development "is not likely to have any significant adverse impact on the environment or to be a cause of significant public concern."

The Yellowknives say Drybones Bay has served as a significant gathering place for the Yellowknives, still "vigorously exercising their traditional rights and lifestyle in the area, adding (that) archaeological finds and first-hand accounts by Yellowknives elders confirm that historic burial grounds, hunting grounds and traplines, fishing access, and seasonal camps mark the shorelines.

"Few areas are off -limits yet here we have one area where we say no development - the most important cultural location left for the YKDFN," Sangris said. "Once again the board has ignored the Yellowknives Dene."

The area continues to be under land claim negotiations between the Akaitcho and federal government, and is one of the areas the Yellowknives wish to select.

"We have to fight to make sure that it's not developed until we settle the land claim," Sangris said, adding it's not necessarily a smart business move for prospectors to begin projects in sensitive areas against their wishes.

"There's no certainty whether they're going to go further beyond their exploration stages," Sangris said. "Until we have settled our claim, people won't have certainty."

For his part, Debogorski said he was drawn to the area because of the potential diamond resource discovered by Snowfield Development Corp. on its Drybones Bay area exploration project adjacent to Debogorski's claims.

"As a prospector, I'm opportunistic," Debogorski said, adding he has spent upwards of $20,000 on permitting and staking his claims.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said there is risk in exploring areas that are under dispute, even when approved by the government.

"We're sort of in that grey area in this situation because the claim isn't settled and there isn't a land-use plan," Hoefer said, noting explorers may eventually have cases for compensation. "Certainly if you've invested money following the rules and then you can't proceed then there might be a case for compensation."

The review board suggested in its decision to approve Debogorski's project that mineral claim holders in the Drybones Bay area be granted relief of work required to keep their claims in good standing under Section 81 of the NWT and Nunavut Mining Regulations, until "competing interests in land use in the Drybones Bay area are resolved."

The approval of Debogorski's program, and the Encore Renaissance Resources Corp. diamond drilling exploration program also recently approved in the Drybones Bay area, are subject to the approval of the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Sangris said he will be meeting with band council next month, and will also be appealing to the minister.

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