Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern sees great potential for Inuit and the city if De Beers Canada’s purchase of the Childliak Project is approved later this month, among the benefits Inuit partnership in the mine and affordable energy for Iqaluit.

photo courtesy of Peregrine Diamonds
De Beers Canada Inc. is poised to take over ownership of the Chidliak diamond project 120 km northeast of Iqaluit, as Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. shareholders prepare to vote yea or nay on the sale Aug. 31.

“For some time several of us have indicated that maybe it’s time to move from an impact benefit agreement to a partnership agreement,” Redfern said.

De Beers stated it was premature to comment for this story, as it doesn’t own Chidliak.

However, De Beers Canada chief executive officer Kim Truter spoke to the Timmins Daily Press as the company is preparing for the closure of its 10-year-old Victor Diamond Mine in Northern Ontario, where the Attawapiskat First Nation were never being completely satisfied with the operation or the terms of its impact benefit agreements.

Calling it a challenging problem, Truter told the Daily Press, “I can’t help wondering whether the formula should be modified for the next operation and whether we seek to connect people more with some of the benefits and perhaps some of the communities felt that everyone would benefit directly.”

He added: “We can consider equity partnerships. There are other models around the world that I think we’ll have to evolve to.”

Redfern is very interested in this idea.

“The Inuit of Nunavut have $1.6 billion in trust. Qikiqtani Inuit Association has tens of millions of dollars in their bank. Rather than simply negotiating minimum targets for training and employment, there’s opportunity for partnerships and ownership stake and therefore a direct involvement in the management of mines.”

Redfern hopes Nunavut and Inuit leaders consider partnering in ownership and development, rather than the usual benefit agreement approach.

“Which to date, for the most part have provided limited benefits. When you look at the Baffinland mine, all the royalties flow through the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. You don’t see in our communities, as in other Northern regions, where you can point to a specific recreation facility or a daycare or community centre or a culture and arts performance centre, and say that’s there because of the mine,” she said.

“Royalties and benefits sitting in bank accounts doesn’t help our people, especially when so many of our people in the communities are living in such high rates of poverty.”

Redfern wants a better deal negotiated, and she says it’s important that Nunavut communities do significant research on mining, are fully engaged, maximize the benefits, and minimize negative environmental impacts. In her own research, Redfern has also come across information on how De Beers has assisted remote communities to develop hydro lines.

“Which of course are beneficial for the mine and the nearby communities,” she said.

“Diamond mines are highly energy intensive. It’s been one of the main conversations I’ve had with Peregrine Diamonds over the years, the work that QEC or GN or the city is doing on getting affordable and abundant power for Iqaluit because they too require significant power. I am keenly, and others are keenly, interested in that potential.”

Chidliak has the potential to be good for families, as well, as the mine site would be located 120 km from the capital, likely connected by road. Whether employees would drive home each night or each weekend, the disruption to people’s home life is reduced, said Redfern.

“There isn’t that same level of anxiety. It’s incredibly difficult for families, for a spouse to effectively become a single parent every two weeks,” she added.

Peregrine Diamonds, said Redfern, made significant efforts in keeping nearby communities – Iqaluit and Pangnirtung – informed.

“De Beers, when and if they acquire Peregrine Diamonds, they’ll have inherited all that good work that Peregrine Diamonds has done,” she said, adding social licence is not something given once, but is ongoing.

But, for now, this potential future for Iqaluit and Pangnirtung residents is in the hands of Peregrine shareholders. They will decide Aug. 31 whether the De Beers deal goes through. If the vote is successful, there will be a few weeks of legal filings until the matter is official.

De Beers, in a joint ventures partnership with Mountain Province Diamonds, also owns 51 per cent of the Gacho Kue Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories. The company began operating its first Canadian diamond mine, Snap Lake, in 2008. In December 2015, it announced it was shuttering Snap Lake.

Nunavut News could not reach Pangnirtung Mayor Stevie Komoartuk for comment.

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