The DeBeers winter road has been blocked twice over the past week, an ongoing blockade that began on Feb. 10 and another from Feb. 4-6. The first blockade was over employment rates among community members and the use of Attawapiskat’s traditional territory, while the second blockade was over a lack of compensation for the mine’s impacts to traplines.
“It’s the same issue as with (the first blockade),” said Danny Metatawabin, Attawapiskat’s impact benefit agreement coordinator, about the second blockade. “They have a trapline there along with the other family.”
Metatawabin said the issues would be sorted out at a Feb. 11 meeting with DeBeers representatives. “The mine manager is on his way tonight, so hopefully we’ll sort it out by tonight,” Metatawabin said on Feb. 11. “As per the agreement, the membership was supposed to have been informed that we we’re not supposed to be doing any blockades.”
Metatawabin said the blockades prevented the delivery of fuel to the DeBeers Victor mine. “It’s been mostly a mixed reaction (to the blockades)” Metatawabin said. “Had the community fully supported the blockade, I think we would have more people over there, but right now there’s just a skeleton number of people over there.”
Metatawabin said there are less than a dozen people on the second blockade.
“We’re trying to work with the families or the people involved on the blockade,” Metatawabin said. “Hopefully, once we have a meeting tonight with them, we’ll bring this to a resolution. The main message here is we all need to work together.”
Tom Ormsby, DeBeers’ director of external and corporate affairs, said the IBA has been in place since 2005.
“Any compensation that is directed towards those who may be impacted for a trapline, that compensation is paid to the community and the community is responsible for the distribution of that money to those who may have been impacted,” Ormsby said. “So it’s not actually something that we would do. We just make that payment to the community and they distribute, so they’ll know better who’s got the traplines in the area and who may be impacted and who may not be.”
Ormsby said DeBeers representatives had already met and worked through the issues of the people on the first blockade.
“It was originally just two people, and they had very specific individual issues they wanted to discuss about employment and training opportunities,” Ormsby said. “So we worked through that and explained to them about the opportunities that are available.”
Ormsby said DeBeers has been working with the community since last July on how to maximize the benefits available in the IBA.
“So anything that would have fallen into similar categories, we agreed that the working groups that are involved currently would just upload those items and then include them in the work they are doing.”
Metatawabin said the first blockade began with four individuals before other community members joined in support.
He said the chief and council do not support the blockade, since the IBA the community signed with Debeers allowed the company to set up the Victor Mine, the winter road, and ensure that its trucks could move without interference on the road.
Metatawabin said for the last six months, the chief and council have been working with Debeers to address issues related to the memberships’ concerns.
“We do have a renewed relationships working group represented by some council members and Debeers officials,” Metatawabin said on Feb. 6, before the blockade ended. “So we’re very close to resolving those issues that suddenly surfaced coming from the blockade.”