Despite losing more than two weeks of the winter road season along the James Bay coast due to two separate blockades, De Beers Canada says it was able to ship the necessary fuel and supplies to its Victor Mine site.
Tom Ormsby, De Beers’ director of external and corporate affairs, said the diamond mining company was able to receive the “needed” shipments thanks to the longer winter season. The James Bay winter road officially closed on March 29, two weeks longer than the previous winter road season.
“We were extremely fortunate that the weather in northern Ontario was colder than usual for a longer than period of time,” Ormsby said. “And that did allow us to get in what we needed to get in before we lost the winter road.”
Ormsby also acknowledged the work of local crews and businesses in putting in the extra effort once the road re-opened following the last blockade.
“Because of their strong planning and the fact we got strong support from the ground, from the local businesses and others, that when the program was able to resume, it did so safely and quickly,” Ormsby said.
De Beers had lost 15 days of its winter road program to ship supplies due to two blockades.
On Feb. 4, a small group of Attawapiskat community members put a blockade on the 90-kilometre road between the First Nation and Victor Mine site, citing issues with the community’s Impact Benefit Agreement with De Beers. It ended on Feb. 6 after an agreement was reached between the group, De Beers and Attawapiskat leaders.
A second blockade was put up on Feb. 10 by a different group of community members. De Beers filed a court injunction, which was granted on Feb. 15. The community members took down their blockade on Feb. 22 after a Timmins judge ordered police to make arrests if the blockaders did not comply.
Although the Victor Mine site received what it needed to operate for another year, not all of the supplies made it to the site.
“So now we have to do an assessment to see if there anything we didn’t get in, what are the costs involved, things like that,” Ormsby said on April 2. “That debrief hasn’t been done yet.”
After the road re-opened, Ormsby told Wawatay News that De Beers is considering legal action against the blockaders, depending on the financial impacts.
Now that the winter road season is over, Ormsby said De Beers would conduct an assessment of the impacts of the blockades.
“And from there, we’ll have to get some advice from others in the company and some legal (advice) and what are the next possible steps,” he said. “Until that next debrief is done and a full analysis, including financial, (is complete), it’s hard to forecast what the next steps will be.”