De Beers Canada presented a joint proposal with four Dene communities to a panel reviewing the Gahcho Kué diamond project on Wednesday.
The company and the communities want to develop a forum that will allow them to work together on the proposed diamond mine near Lutsel K'e, N.W.T.
The proposed group, calling themselves Gahcho Kué Ni Hadi Yati, made a presentation in Yellowknife during an environmental review of the project.
It includes the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Deninu Kue First Nation, the Tlicho Government and De Beers.
They say a joint partnership will build trust among the parties and ensure that First Nation groups know what's going on at the mining site.
The forum would have them acting as one entity, rather than five separate groups. They told the environmental review that should also reduce costs.
Veronica Chisholm, a manager with De Beers, says the company will provide annual funds to support the group.
"It is up to the parties to choose to participate in this group. De Beers cannot run this alone," Chisholm said.
Other groups, like the North Slave Métis Alliance, were approached to join the forum. But its president, Bill Enge, is not convinced it will work for them.
"We were informed about it on Monday, November 19th, a mere 16 days ago. And the means by which we were informed about this was with a PowerPoint presentation. There wasn't any protocol document or any other kind of structure … to make an informed decision," Enge said.
There is nothing set in stone – this week’s presentation was only a proposal. But if the board approves it, the groups will sign a binding contract that will determine how they intend to work together for the Gahcho Kué Project.
The environmental review for the diamond project continues this week in Yellowknife.
De Beers' proposed Gahcho Kué mine is located about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. If approved, the mine could be in operation by 2014.