A northeast Saskatchewan First Nation says the province has given the green light on a controversial diamond mining project without meeting its duty to consult obligations.
The Sask. Party government announced on Thursday it has approved the environmental assessment for the proposed $1.4 billion Star Diamond mine project in the Fort a la Corne area, about 65 kilometres east of Prince Albert.
The government claims it has met its duty to consult obligations to local First Nations and Métis communities.
Not so says Winston McLean, an advisor to the James Smith Cree Nation.
“Been with the province for years now, took us a long time to convince them of many things and despite that, at the last minute, they just surprised us,” he says. “And we don’t believe that’s how partnerships are supposed to work.”
The federal government gave its approval to the mining project in 2014 but the Sask. Party has had trouble bringing local Indigenous groups onside.
James Smith has raised concerns around the potential impacts of the diamond mine on traditional lands and lack of proposed economic benefits to First Nations people.
The government says James Smith will be involved in environmental monitoring of the project and receive related training, jobs and business opportunities.
It also says the First Nation will receive funding for participation in a stewardship committee, harvest support program and cultural programs.
McLean calls these concessions “scraps.”
In a press release issued late Thursday, James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns says, “The way things stand, everyone else gets the benefits of a mine while we get left with all the consequences. There will be no mine until the peoples’ interests are satisfied.”
The Chakataypasin Band of the Cree and Peter Chapman First Nation also condemn the government’s decision in the press release and say Star Diamond’s environmental impact statement is far from adequate.
Environment Minister Dustin Duncan called McLean’s comments “unfortunate” and insists the province has met its duty to consult obligations.
He says the province has held extensive meetings with local stakeholders over the past four years and it is time to move on.
The diamond mine project still needs to receive a number of provincial and municipal permits before proceeding.
(PHOTO: Star-Orion South Diamond Mine Project map. File photo.)