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Diamond mining in the Northwest Territories

The Dechi Laot'I First Nation in Wekweti (Northwest Territories)

The Dechi Laot'I First Nation is located in Wekweti, North West Territories on the shores of Snare Lake, 200 kilometers north of Yellowknife. A permanent settlement since 1962, it was founded by former chief and elder Alexis Arrowmaker who brought a number of families to the area to preserve traditional lifestyle and values. Today, the community is home for approximately 140 Dogrib people. Before settlement it served as an outpost hunting camp. Hunting, fishing and trapping are still major activities today. In 1996, the community achieved Band Status making it a full partner of the Dogrib Nation under Treaty 11. This status gives the people of Wekweti a clear claim in self-government and land claims negotiations.

One hundred eighty kilometers northeast of Wekweti is the EKATI diamond mine which officially opened in October, 1998. Wekweti is its closest neighbour. BHP Mines, which owns most of EKATI, was required to come to agreements concerning the environmental and cultural impacts of the proposed mine before it could receive approval for large scale operations. The Dogrib Nations of Treaty 11 were the first to sign an Impact and Benefit agreement with the company.

As part of the agreement, BHP must submit an annual report to the Dogrib and other signing nations (Métis, Inuit and Akaitcho Treaty 8) which includes information regarding the company's environmental monitoring programs. BHP must consult with Indigenous communities regarding any activities which might disturb land used for burial grounds or other traditional purposes. In addition, like many other mines operating on or near Indigenous lands, EKATI has a policy to hire Indigenous peoples and provide them with necessary training.

Based on initial projections, the EKATI Diamond Mine is expected to operate for 17 to 25 years. During this time approximately 78 million tonnes of kimberlite ore will be processed; kimberlite is the type of rock in which diamonds are usually found. EKATI already has a plan to restore the land in and around the mine site once it is closed.

The information in this article was obtained from:
Indigenous & Northern Affairs Canada, and
BHP Diamond Facts, Issue 3, 1999.

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