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Canada First Nation group opposes De Beers waste dump on traditional territory

Kitco News

TORONTO, April 6 (Reuters) - An isolated First Nation community in Canada's Ontario province on Tuesday said it opposes plans by Anglo American's De Beers Group to build a new mine landfill on its traditional territory, citing threats to millenia-old cultural sites. De Beers is seeking Ontario government approval for a landfill for mine demolition waste in the vulnerable James Bay wetlands area, in a place of critical cultural, spiritual and subsistence importance to the Kattawapiskak Cree people, the Attawapiskat First Nation said.

De Beers has applied to store 97,000 cubic meters of waste from the Victor diamond mine, below the threshold which would trigger a comprehensive environmental assessment under Ontario law, the indigenous group said. Global miners face mounting investor pressure to improve relations with indigenous communities after the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in Australia by Rio Tinto last year. De Beers did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. The unit is 85% owned by Anglo and 15% owned by the government of Botswana.

"We don't want another Juukan Gorge disaster in our traditional territory," said local council member Jack Linklater in a release.

"We don't believe that Anglo American and the Republic of Botswana want to allow De Beers staff to create a giant mine landfill in our traditional territory." The isolated Victor mine, which is in the closure phase, is about 90 km (55.9 miles) west of the Attawapiskat community of 2,000 in northeastern Ontario and is the province's first and only diamond mine.

De Beers in 2017 shelved plans to study an expansion after failing to get community support and the mine ceased operations altogether in 2019. It produced about 600,000 carats per year. About 65% of the site infrastructure has been demolished with about 40% of the site rehabilitated, according to De Beers' website.

(Reporting by Jeff Lewis Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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