ATTAWAPISKAT – De Beers Canada should know by the end of this week whether or not it has the support it wants from the members of the Attawapiskat First Nation to move ahead with exploration work on its Tango Extension project.
Since early August, the First Nation’s economic development corporation, Attawapiskat Enterprises, has been conducting a door-to-door survey asking people if they would support the first phase of the project that could prolong diamond mining inside their territory.
The deal being proposed to Attawapiskat members not only includes more direct involvement in the resulting mine from the Tango Extension, De Beers is also offering jobs for band member in the remediation work at the existing Victor Mine after it ceases operations in 2018.
But when De Beers let it be known last week it would not even consider going forward with the Tango Extension without the community’s go ahead, the reaction from the First Nation’s newly-elected chief, Ignace Gull, was likely not what the company was hoping for.
“Attawapiskat is in a midst of suicide crisis and we need to deal with this first and they have to back off instead of threatening us. People have to stand strong because we’re all in this together,” said Gull on social media.
Many First Nations are becoming increasingly adamant that companies and governments get their prior consent before any resource project can go ahead inside their territory, even though legally all that is required is to consult them. Getting that prior consent seems to be what De Beers was trying to do in this case.
But Attawapiskat Enterprises CEO Adrian Sutherland believes the negative reaction came from the perception that the mining company is trying to force the community to come to a decision on whether it will support Tango more quickly than it they would like.
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