No need for further study
Socio-economic agreement comes with vote of support from GNWT

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 06/99) - The company hoping to build Canada's second diamond mine is about to get a strong show of support for its project.

Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, Stephen Kakfwi (left), said Saturday further study of the environmental impact of the project will serve no purpose.

"The government will be putting a position to the federal government, probably early next week," said Kakfwi following the signing of a socio-economic agreement between the government and Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.

"That position will be that as a minister it is my view there is no substantive benefits to delaying the project and asking for a full (panel) review."

Those words are music to the ears of those working to make the project a reality.

"It's gratifying to have the support of the NWT," said DDMI president Stephen Prest following the signing.

Over the last few weeks support has grown to put the project to a panel review, a process that would delay the project for more than a year. Among those calling for a panel review are the Treaty 11 Dogribs, Lutsel K'e Dene and the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee.

A comprehensive review of the project was carried out over the last 19 months. A decision on the environmental concerns of the project is anticipated within the next month.

The main difference between a comprehensive study and a panel review is that government oversees the former and, in the latter, an independent panel is in charge.

Treaty 11 Council land claims manager, Ted Blondin, said the signing of the socio-economic agreement changes nothing for the Dogribs.

"The way the Dogribs want to handle this is we want to make sure our concerns dealing with the environment are satisfied first," said Blondin.

He noted that, unlike the negotiation of the BHP socio-economic agreement, aboriginal groups were included in the negotiation. Blondin said none of them signed the agreement.

CARC executive director, Kevin O'Reilly, said his organization still wants a panel review of the project, but he said he was glad to see a socio-economic agreement containing provisions for monitoring environmental effects of the proposed mine.

Kakfwi said the socio-economic agreement is head and shoulders above that signed for the BHP project. That was a rushed negotiation, said Kakfwi, and resulted in few of the protections, including penalties for breaches of the agreement, contained in the agreement reached with Diavik.

"This socio-economic agreement is a milestone, really," Kakfwi said. "This is our second shot at it and we got it right this time."

The minister said support for the project will be conveyed in letters to federal Environment Minister David Anderson and Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Robert Nault.

Kakfwi said the vote of support was not part of the negotiation of the socio-economic agreement.