Show of support
Business says enough, urge federal approval of Diavik

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 20/99) - With a decision on Diavik due soon, NWT business leaders are pressing Environment Minister David Anderson to give the project the go-ahead.

Representatives of Yellowknife and NWT chambers of commerce and the NWT Construction Association held a press conference Monday to send a message that they support the GNWT's recommendation that Environment Minister David Anderson approve the Diavik diamond project.

Yellowknife Frame Lake MLA and NWT Finance Minister Charles Dent said Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development Minister Stephen Kakfwi is attempting to meet soon with Minister Anderson on the Diavik project.

Yk Chamber President Gord Van Tighem said delaying Diavik will "jeopardize" investment interest in diamonds.

"I'm worried about the negative message this might send to other (resource companies)," Yellowknife Mayor Dave Lovell added.

The call for approval comes days after the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board came out with its Diavik report. If its concerns are not addressed, the board wants the Diavik project re-examined through a panel review.

Ministerial approval of the project would move the process to the licensing stage.

"We've demonstrated we are capable of handling most of the work in the NWT. We are very much in favour of this (Diavik) development," NWT Construction Association President Bill Aho said.

Sending the Diavik project to a panel review would take 18 months, said Wayne Bryant, a Yk business owner.

"I've been involved with Northern environmental issues since 1973. I've seen the process evolve. My view is this project has been thoroughly examined," he said.

Further study and the "company might walk," he said.

North Slave Metis Alliance President Clem Paul said the organization has concerns, but that they can be dealt with through the socio-economic agreement and an impact benefit agreement between the company and the NSMA.

Diavik President Stephen Prest, at the meeting, could not comment on how much a delay would cost.

"We feel that what has been done through the comprehensive study report was thorough," he said.

Prest said it is premature to discuss when the 1999 cut-off date for Diavik's shareholders is. But if they are to meet the 2000 ice-road window, the shareholders will have to be in a position to give the project their approval some time between mid-December and the end of the year.

Alan Vaughan, with the NWT chamber, said: "Diavik did not request this meeting."