• The Left Chapter

DeBeers Canada seeks Ontario Government approval for third landfill site: Attawapiskat First Nation


Current Victor Diamond Mine landfill and metal scrap pile - photo via press release


Excerpts from an Attawapiskat First Nation press release:


"DeBeers has profited a lot from the Victor Diamond Mine and will profit even more. These expensive diamonds come from my Nation's homeland, in our backyard, and yet we continue to live in horrendous conditions where we can't even drink the water here from the taps. We keep watching the wealth of our Traditional Territory, from the waters and lands to the wildlife, get industrialized. We keep watching others walk off with the profits of that industrialization, leaving us to bear the burden and the waste. When DeBeers has the money to transport, recycle and re-use materials, and to properly monitor the effects of the mine on the lakes and rivers, they must be required to do so. We will not tolerate excuses when so much is at stake." - Attawapiskat Chief David Nakogee


DeBeers Canada (DBC) is seeking Ontario Government approval for a third landfill waste site to be built and filled up at the Victor Mine Site, located in a vulnerable James Bay wetlands area, and in a place of critical importance to Attawapiskat. The Victor Mine is now in the closure phase, where decommissioning and remediation are supposed to leave the landscape in a clean and safe state. The mine operated from 2005 to 2019 and with an annual production rate is 2.7 million tonnes a year, or about 600,000 carats a year in diamond grade.


Much of the diamond mine waste that DBC would deposit into such landfill, is reusable and salvageable. Over half of the proposed landfill waste will be powerline infrastructure which has significant value, together with steel, pipe and wood products that can be re-used or recycled. "DeBeers could and should be transporting that waste through the winter road it has maintained for the last many years, to markets and facilities south of us, where it can be treated and reused," says Attawapiskat Chief David Nakogee. "We're talking about 100,000 cubic metres of material that could be reused or recycled. DeBeers unilaterally cancelled the contract for the winter road project because they said they don't need it. Of course they don't need it when they have the alternative of turning our lands into their garbage dump instead of building a winter road."


The manner in which DBC is seeking Ontario approval for the extra landfill is suspect. Without conducting a full audit or examining alternatives to landfilling, DBC has applied for 97,000 cubic metres of landfill volume, which is just shy of the 100,000 cubic metres threshold which would trigger a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment. DBC very recently got approval for a demolition landfill of exactly the same size, and now they are asking Ontario to approve a second demolition landfill bringing the total diamond mine project demolition waste volume to almost 200,000 cubic metres.


"A 200,000 cubic metre demolition landfill could fit about four CN Towers. A 100,000 cubic metre landfill could serve a medium-sized Ontario municipality for 20 years or more. A landfill that big requires a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment," says environmental consultant to Attawapiskat, Don Richardson.