Canada

Rift develops over N.W.T.'s Diavik diamond mine

Controversy is growing among First Nations leaders in the Northwest Territories about Ottawa's approval of Canada's second diamond mine.

First Nations communities are not happy about the decision, but some have chosen to accept it. Others are still calling for a full-panel environmental assessment of the mine.

When Federal Environment Minister David Anderson last week approved the Diavik mine, there were mixed reactions.

Yellowknife's business community was glad the project could finally go ahead. But First Nations groups and environmentalists were worried the long-term impact of the mine hadn't been studied enough.

Now, a split is developing in the First Nations community, too.

Leaders such as Joe Rabesca, grand chief of the Dogrib First Nation, are reluctantly supporting Anderson's decision. But others, including Chief Felix Lockhart of the Lutsel K'e Dene, say the minister has ignored the concerns of First Nations people and acted irresponsibly.

Lockhart said Diavik's approval sets a dangerous precedent.

"We're not just talking about this one (mine), we're also talking about future mining endeavours upcoming," Lockhart told CBC News. "Take a look 16, 20 years down the road; where are we going to be?"

Rabesca says the only way to get his people's cocnerns dealt with, is to work with Diavik, not against it. That's also the best way to make sure the Dogrib benefit from mining activities, he said, noting Dogrib companies already hold more than $15 million worth of mine-related contracts.

"The only way we can deal with this is to be part of it, and if we're not part of it there's no sense complaining," Rabesca told CBC News.