The federal Indian and Northern Affairs Department is being accused by an N.W.T. Métis group of lax environmental inspections at the Diavik diamond mine.
The mine, based about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife in the Lac de Gras area, must follow environmental laws and the terms of its water and land-use permits, while the federal department is responsible for enforcement.
"There is no standard set for us completing inspections," Darnell McCurdy, the department's acting director in the South Mackenzie District, told CBC News.
"We have accepted that we try to do a minimum of one a month."
But records from the Wek'eezhi Land and Water Board show the department has not done its own minimum number of inspections in two of the last three years, with gaps as long as eight months in 2007-08.
North Slave Métis Alliance president Bill Enge said inspections should not be missed, since that puts the environment at risk.
"Send the inspectors there to do the job they told us they would do when we negotiated the environmental agreement and gave our consent to go ahead and mine the diamonds," Enge said.
McCurdy said the eight-month gap between inspections was due to a vacancy on his staff. This year, the department conducted six inspections in 11 months, but no reports have been filed since February.
"We have a dedicated inspector to the site. We also have the management prerogative to utilize that inspector to do various other tasks," he said.
"A file came up that was reassigned to that individual, as a priority in the district."
The Environmental Monitoring Advisory Board, which ensures the environment around the Diavik mine is protected, asks for timely inspections and reports, but it cannot force the government to change its ways.