Saturday 10 December 2011

De Beers diamond mine in Attawapiskat

The remote De Beers diamond mine, 90km west of Attawapiskat, is called Victor Mine. I was curious about it. The photos are from our Lake Superior Park trip, June, 2009.

The Victor Mine has signed four community agreements (Impact Benefit Agreements –IBA) for the Victor Mine including:
  • an IBA with the Attawapiskat First Nation (November 2005),
  • a Working Relationship Agreement with the Taykwa Tagamou Nation (May 2005),
  • an IBA with Moose Cree First Nation (September 2007) and
  • an IBA with Kashechewan and Fort Albany First Nation (February 2009).
At Victor Mine, $93 million was spent on goods and services and $49 million (53 per cent) was supplied by Aboriginal businesses. The mine took $11 billion to build, with $321 million in contracts within the community.

Of the 500 current employees, about 100 are employed from Attawapiskat. Most of the 500 are First Nations. This I gleaned from a CBC interview with De Beers spokesman, Tom Ormsby, Manager Public and Corporate Affairs.

This is a fly-in mine, with no roads. Employees fly in for two weeks at a time. They are housed and fed in the camp, leaving family behind. This is what my brother does in Musselwhite Mine, similarly in northern Ontario. Salaries are good for skilled employees. Currently, the mine has job posting for: Field Geophysicist and Field Geologist.

In winter, ice roads connect the town to the south. If you've followed Ice Road Truckers, you'll see the danger in travelling to, and the expense of living in, such communities.

13 stranded after ice roads turned to mud - Truckers Report ... (3/22/2010)

WINNIPEG - Muddy ice roads that stranded dozens of drivers in the wilderness and prompted 16 northern Manitoba First Nations to declare a state of emergency are proof that permanent all-season roads are needed, the province's grand chief said Friday.

History of the Ice Road

History of the Ice Road

Get the cold, hard facts on Dempster Highway, the ice road featured on History's Ice Road Truckers, and find out how important it is to life in the Arctic Circle.

I was curious as to who owns the land.

Crown Land
The royalties for these lands, including De Beers diamond mine, are set by the provinces. When Britain moved in to take advantage of Canada's furs, and minerals, the land was taken and declared Crown Land. Since Confederation, crown land has been the responsibility of the provinces and territories. In the 1800s, the selling of crown land meant that few had to pay taxes, and the money generated went towards infrastructure.

In Canadian law all lands are subject to the Crown, and this has been true since Britain acquired much of Eastern Canada from France by the Treaty of Paris (1763). Britain and The Dominion of Canada understood that indigenous peoples had a prior claim, Aboriginal title, which was not extinguished by the arrival of the Europeans. This resulted in treaties between First Nations and the Crown. Unfortunately, these treaties have been biased and many First Nations governments have had to protest them. First Nations, being nomadic following the migration of the animals, held territory collectively. With tribe boundaries changing and evolving over time, there were disagreement as to who held title.

Ontario Crown Land
Local bison meat
bison near Lake Superior Park
About 87% of the province's land is owned and managed by the province, the exception being national parks, Native Reserves, some harbours and canals. The land under most navigable lakes and rivers is also Crown Land. Crown Land makes up 95%+ of the land in northern Ontario. There is very little Crown Land remaining in southern Ontario. Early settlers homesteading on the Great lakes and waterways that made up the transportation system for goods and services. This land is administered by the Public Lands Act. [Public Lands Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.43 .doc – this puts the land under the control of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR)]

Western Development
Lands given out in the early years of the The Dominion Lands Act included rights to the subsoil, including all minerals, oil, or natural gas found below the property. Later grants (circa 1900 CE) did not include subsoil rights. As a result, in the leading petroleum producing province of Alberta, 81% of the subsurface mineral rights are owned by the provincial Crown. The remaining 19% are owned by the federal Crown, individuals, or corporations. []

British Columbia
near north Ontario roads
An Act respecting the Public Lands of the Dominion, 1872. The Dominion Lands Act  of 1872 set the “rules” for the early settlement and development of western Canada. The Act applied to all the territory Canada had acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1868 (Rupert’s Land Act - for £300,000 and keeping 20% of the land). Originally, Hudson's Bay Company owned much land from 1670 - 1870. They owned much land in what is now B.C., the Yukon, Northwest Territories ad Nunavut.

Mamainse Harbour federal property
Federal vs. Provincial Control
Mamainse Harbour
Less than 11% of Canada's land is in private hands; 41% is federal crown land and 48% is provincial crown land. The YUKON, the NORTHWEST TERRITORIES and NUNAVUT are administered on behalf of Canada by ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT through the Territorial Lands Act and Public Lands Grants Act. In British Columbia, 94% of the land is Provincial Crown Land, 1% is Federal Crown Land: First Nations Reserves, Department of Defense, harbours, and 5% is privately owned.
road construction near Parry Sound

The provinces sold crown land to homesteaders, farmers, business owners and granted land to demobilised soldiers (200 acres and 600 acres for officers); regulated the use of resources: forestry, mining, furs; manage recreational land use such as fishing, hunting, camping.
road construction near Parry Sound

Here is a video that speaks to some of the issues of living in northern Ontario.

For many the knowledge of Northern Ontario's Winter Roads Networks is limited.
What is life like at the other end of these roads?
What challenges does a warm winter pose?
What are the possibilities of creating a permanent all-season road to connect remote First Nations communities?
Earlier this year they were in Sandy Lake, ON, and posed these questions to Chief Adam Fiddler in this story.


EG CameraGirl said...

Living way up north is such a complicated issue, I think. It makes me feel sad that so many people in southern Canada do not even TRY to understand but make harsh judgments without knowing many of the facts.

Red said...

You've done your homework. I am only familiar with the Sask. Alta. scene. Alberta is trying to sell of some excellent native grassland for potato production. This land would have to be irrigated.

Kay said...

OH wow! You got diamonds in Canada. What fun! Too bad it's so hard to get to.

SandyCarlson said...

Your posts take me out of this world and have me thinking. Thank you for doing that.

Gill - That British Woman said...

there is a lot going on up there that none of us know about. Ocassionally you see snippets in the news, but still not the whole story.

Ds has done audits on some of the reservations and told me all sorts on how they live. Not a great life...

Very informative post.