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James Smith Cree Nation promises to halt mine project citing environmental, cultural concerns
Published Friday, October 26, 2018 6:48PM CST
Last Updated Friday, October 26, 2018 6:54PM CST
The James Smith Cree Nation says it will stand in the way of a diamond mind near its community that received provincial environmental approval Thursday.
In a news release Chief Wally Burns said there will be no project until the community’s interests have been satisfied. His advisor Winston McLean wouldn’t say what the Cree Nation plans to do but did say:
"A warning to the investors. It looks nice in the media that the government is giving us all these trinkets and beads, but at the end of the day, this project is still at risk because we're not happy with how this is proceeding.”
The footprint of the Star-Orion South Diamond Mine Project and its facilities, as well its operation, is located near reserve lands and will have negative effects on the community, traditions and spirituality, the community says.
“The mine itself will require the permanent destruction of an irreplaceable sacred site, continuing the Indian act and residential school legacy crushing our spirituality so others can benefit,” Burns said in the release.
A sacred site called Shining Hill where ceremonies are performed will be bulldozed as part of the project’s excavation. Winston McLean, an advisor to Chief Burns said the community will get “scraps” while others will benefit financially.
Star Diamond Corporation can now proceed with the next steps of the project, which will be located around 65 kilometres east of Prince Albert in the Fort à la Corne Forest.
McLean says the province hasn’t fully addressed the Cree Nation’s environmental and cultural concerns.
The environment ministry says it has conducted a thorough environmental assessment for the project, including a detailed environmental impact statement, and carried out in-depth consultation prior to the decision to approve the project.
“We worked closely with James Smith Cree Nation and other communities to identify potential impacts to their treaty and Aboriginal rights, and where necessary, develop appropriate mitigation or accommodation to address those impacts,” Brady Pollock, director of environmental assessment with the stewardship branch of the environment ministry, said in an interview.
The Cree Nation said the mine will have a greater environmental footprint than Star Diamond says it will. The company didn’t respond to that comment specifically but in a statement to CTV News it pointed to the accommodations laid out by the government.
“These accommodations are part of 11 conditions of the Project approval requiring the Project proponent to incorporate mitigation measures over the life of the Project to address environmental and community impacts,” Star Diamond wrote.
Part of the accommodations include Star Diamond providing James Smith Cree Nation with funding for community participation and cultural programs, involving the community in environmental monitoring and providing training, jobs and business opportunities.
A conservation area is being set aside in the Fort á la Corne Forest to provide continued opportunity for the exercise of Treaty and Aboriginal rights, the province says.
Star Diamond President and CEO Kenneth MacNeill said in a news release that the project could generate billions of dollars of corporate and municipal taxes and royalties.
It could also employ hundreds of people throughout the construction phase and 700 people continuously over its 38 year mine life, he said.
Star Diamond wouldn’t say when the project expects to be fully operational. It still needs provincial and municipal permits and approval including an environmental protection plan and an aquatic habitat protection permit.
The ministry says there is one approval condition that required the project proceed within five years and if it doesn’t Star Diamond would have to re-engage the ministry.