Green light
Official says denied permit will be reconsidered once agreement reached

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 18/00) - Once an environmental agreement for the Diavik diamond mine is completed, the federal government will consider permitting the preliminary construction work it denied Diavik previously.

"The position that was taken on that is we need an environmental agreement, then we can look at the issue of a land-use permit," said Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development spokesperson Hiram Beaubier.

In January, DIAND rejected a land-use permit that would allow the quarrying of 50,000 cubic metres of rock and laying of gravel pads for camp buildings and facilities.

Diavik had hoped to carry out the work from Jan. 10 to Feb. 20, but the permit request was rejected by DIAND.

Beaubier said the department will reconsider giving permission for that work once an environmental agreement is reached.

He made a distinction between the quarrying work and the construction of the actual mine, saying "No substantive work can be undertaken without a water licence."

One of the five aboriginal groups involved in negotiation of the agreement and an environmental group have protested that distinction. The North Slave Metis Alliance and the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee point to the government's report on the environmental assessment of the project. In the report, DIAND stated the project should not proceed until all regulatory approvals are granted.

Unable to reach agreement on reclamation security for the project, the last two weeks have kept negotiators busy conducting a technical review of the project, said Beaubier. The purpose of the review was to clarify exactly how much it would cost to restore the project during different phases of its development.

In its submission to the NWT water board, DIAND presented a schedule for the security deposit reflecting the restoration costs for different stages of the mine's development. The security deposit DIAND recommended ranged from $66.3 million in the mine's first year of operation to $187.1 million in its twentieth year.

Beaubier said the government's objective in negotiation of the security deposit is to protect taxpayers against any liability for the restoration of the mine site. The government, he said, is willing to recognize restoration done during the life of the mine and adjust the security deposit accordingly.

"We're not looking for all the security up front, we're looking for security in a progressive way," said Beaubier.

He said what's being negotiated is a scheduled increase in the deposit to reflect the increased clean-up costs as the mine was developed.

A Diavik official last week indicated the company was being asked for the full $185 million security right away.