First Nations near proposed diamond mine concerned about impacts on their communities
- EFN Staff | October 30, 2018
Leaders of the James Smith Cree Nation are not in favour of a diamond mine until their concerns are addressed.
Last week, Chief Wally Burns issued a media release on the same day the provincial government announced approval for construction the Star-Orion South Diamond Mine Project on the James Smith Cree Nation’s reserve lands.
“The way things stand, everyone else gets the benefits of a mine while we are left with all the consequences,” said Chief Burns in a media release. “There will be no mine until our peoples’ interests are satisfied.”
The Government of Saskatchewan stated in a media release that they consulted with local First Nations and Métis communities and has developed accommodations that will address potential impacts to Treaty rights and traditional uses.
“The Star-Orion South Diamond Mine is a major development with the potential to bring jobs to the area and diversify Saskatchewan’s economy,” Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said. “The Government of Saskatchewan has an obligation to ensure that developments undergo comprehensive assessment and proceed with appropriate environmental safeguards in place. I am confident this project has met these requirements and the conditions of approval will mitigate environmental and community impacts.”
The diamond mine is expected to employ 700 people during full operation. When developed, the mine will contribute to the local and provincial economies through taxes, royalties and business opportunities.
After consultations between the provincial government and local Indigenous communities, some accommodations were also discussed such as preparing a fish habitat compensation plan; providing funding to James Smith Cree Nation to support community participation in a stewardship committee; entering into an agreement to provide training, jobs and business opportunities for James Smith Cree Nation and other local communities; as well as a conservation area will be set to provide continued opportunity for the exercise of Treaty and Aboriginal rights.
However, Peter Chapman First Nation Chief Robert Head said the province has not meaningfully addressed what impacts the diamond mine can have in their community.
“Saskatchewan…approved a mine so it may reap over a billion dollars from James Smith lands while leaving us with scraps,” said Chief Head. “The more we dug, the more we realized this mine will have intergenerational impacts on our people, our traditions [and] our spirituality.”
Chief Burns added the mine will require the permanent destruction of an irreplaceable sacred site, calling it a continuation of the Indian Act and residential school legacy.
“Investors should beware. While this appears [to be] a major breakthrough for the mine, there will be no project until our interests have been satisfied,” said Chief Burns. “Shoving this mine down our throat will not work.”
The James Smith Cree Nation is north of Kinistino near Fort de la Corne on the Saskatchewan River. This reserve is shared between three first nations, the other two being the Peter Chapman First Nation and Chakastaypasin First Nation.