A standoff between residents of the First Nation of Attawapiskat and the De Beers’ Victor diamond mine ended without incident on February 22. A team of officers from the Ontario Provincial Police force arrived to enforce a court order to remove the barricades that had been set up for the three-week blockade only to find that they had been taken down prior to their arrival.
This is the second blockade of the ice road leading to the diamond mine, located 90 kilometres west of the community, with the last one ending February 8 after De Beers and Attawapiskat agreed to focus on employment, training, and the housing situation in the community as well as reopening the Impact Benefit Agreement signed between the two parties.
Chief Spence has said that she wants the problem resolved in order to focus on future exploration projects in the traditional territory of Attawapiskat. The future of the mine is up in the air, however. The South African company is examining whether to continue operating the mine beyond 2018.
Transport vehicles have been running non-stop since the blockade was lifted in order to deliver about a year’s worth of supplies to the mine before the ice road shuts down. De Beers has said that it might not be able to deliver all of the supplies due to the blockade within the short time window left before the melt. It warned there could be temporary shutdowns and layoffs during operating season if enough supplies don’t make it through.