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The Minerals and Metals Sector of Natural Resources Canada promotes the participation of Aboriginal communities in minerals and metals activities across Canada by sharing information on Aboriginal-industry leading practices.
The Diavik Diamond Mine (Diavik) in an unincorporated joint venture between Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. and Aber Diamond Limited Partnership, both headquartered in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The mine, located 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, consists of three diamond-bearing deposits, or kimberlite pipes, located just off shore a 20-square-kilometre island under the waters of Lac de Gras. Construction of the mine, which is expected to have a mine life of 16 to 22 years, started in 2000 and commercial production of the mine's rough diamonds commenced in January 2003.
In 1999, Diavik entered into a Socio-Economic Monitoring Agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories to formalize its commitments to provide training, employment, scholarship programs, and business opportunities to local Aboriginal peoples. This agreement was ratified through individual Participation Agreements negotiated with each of the five signatory Aboriginal groups, including the Tlicho Government (formerly Dogrib Treaty 11 Council), Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the North Slave Metis Alliance, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, and the Lutsel K'e Dene Band.
Employment and Training
During the mine operation phase from 2003 to 2005, Diavik exceeded its employment objectives by employing an average of 221 Aboriginal Northerners in 2003, 259 in 2004, and 256 in 2005. This level is substantially higher than the predicted number of 180. To increase its Aboriginal work force, Diavik adopted an Aboriginal Employment Strategy in 2004 that focuses on pre-employment initiatives, recruiting, employee retention, and employee development initiatives. This has enabled Diavik to operate a Workplace Learning Centre at the mine site and to coordinate the development of training and apprenticeship programs. By 2005, Diavik and its contractors employed 17 apprentices, all Northerners and mostly Aboriginal, in trades such as electrician, millwright, instrumentation technician, welding, heavy-duty mechanics, and automotive mechanics.
Diavik also aims to increase the number of Aboriginal people at the supervisory and management levels through focused training. To this end, the company developed the Aboriginal Leadership Development Program, which is based on the company's leadership competencies and where participants are matched with a manager who acts as a mentor. The program is built around the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's Applied Management Certifi cate program.
Diavik recognizes its significant role in creating new and long-term business opportunities that can lead to increased capacity for the local business community. As a result, Diavik has entered into several long-term-operations labour contracts with Aboriginal and northern businesses who supply approximately half of its work force. Diavik works closely with Aboriginal-owned companies to assist them in building capacity so they are better positioned to pursue potential future business opportunities. Capital and business spending on construction and operations expenditures reached $2121 million over the period January 2000 to December 2005. Of this, $974 million was spent through northern Aboriginal businesses.
Diavik was recognized in 2005 as a leader in Aboriginal relations by reaching the prestigious Gold level of achievement under the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business's Progressive Aboriginal Relations program.
Social/Cultural and Community Support
Diavik has also initiated Cultural Awareness, Community Well-Being, and Employee Wellness programs. Diavik worked closely with each of the five parties to the Aboriginal Participation Agreement when developing these programs to ensure project-related cultural and employee/community wellness issues would be addressed in a sensitive and meaningful manner. The Cultural Awareness program, for example, was designed by four well-known Northern Aboriginal teachers and includes cultural, and drug and alcohol awareness workshops; mine tours for Aboriginal elders, women and students; and comprehensive community relations programs, including financial donations and scholarships. Every year, Diavik awards a signifi cant amount of money in scholarships to deserving applicants. In 2005, Diavik awarded just over $200 000 in scholarships and, since the company began the program in 2001, more than 450 people in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut's West Kitikmeot region have received over $875 000.
Diavik has entered into an Environmental Agreement with local Aboriginal groups and the federal and territorial governments. Concluded in March 2000, the agreement formalizes Diavik's environmental protection commitments, establishes reclamation security requirements, and provides transparency and oversight to local communities. Diavik's adaptive management and custom prevention programs are designed to protect the local environment. Included in the environmental management system is protection for caribou and other wildlife, as well as water and fish habitat. Diavik is a recipient of the Environmental Excellence in Exploration (E3) Award from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.
Diavik's vision is to be Canada's premier diamond producer, creating a legacy of responsible safety, environmental and employee development practices, and enduring community benefits.
Photos courtesy of Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. (used with permission).