In preparation for imminent mine closure at its Lac de Gras facility, Diavik Diamond Mine applied for an amendment to its current water license. This proposed amendment would enable the mine operators to place processed kimberlite sludge (fine processed kimberlite and extra fine processed kimberlite) into underground mine workings. YKDFN participated as an intervener in the proceedings lobbying on behalf of the community to ensure that YKDFN interests are protected and concerns addressed. Environment staff gathered community views via a public meetings and extensive internal review of documentation via scientific methods. YKDFN is against putting the kimberlite sludge into the underground mine workings as Diavik did not adequately show that it would not effect the Lac de Gras ecosystem or allow the land to be returned to a state that would be appropriate for cultural use.
YKDFN was successful in acquiring funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada to continue the work on the YKDFN Guardians Program. This year’s focus was on the development of a monitoring framework and protocols based on traditional knowledge. A draft set of values and indicators as well as a draft monitoring framework was completed and was ready for community verification through a community meeting set for March 2020. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 community engagement into the draft documents had to be postponed. Environment is hoping to be able to have community engagement on this file in the 2020/2021 fiscal year.
The Environment Department is also responsible for managing YKDFN’s participation on the different monitoring bodies for existing mines.
Gahcho Kue Mine – Ni Hadi Xa is responsible for the monitoring of the Gahcho Kue Mine. The goal is to ensure that the mine’s operation does not compromise the ability of the land to support those who rely on it. To do this direct observation of the mine’s activities, traditional knowledge gathering in the local area, and technical reviews of the environmental management plans. Ni Hadi Xa is comprised of six Indigenous Governments (Deninu Kue First Nation, Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, North Slave Métis Alliance, Northwest Territory Métis Nation and Tłı̨chǫ Government, Yellowknives Dene First Nation) and De Beers Canada. The Environment Director is currently the YKDFN representative on this board.
Diavik Diamond Mine – The Environmental Monitoring Advisory Board (EMAB) is responsible for the monitoring of Diavik Diamond Mine. EMAB makes recommendations to Diavik, the regulators and the Parties to the Agreement. Recommendations are made when regulators raise issues, when regulators and Diavik disagree on an issue, or when Diavik or the regulators do not address an issue that the board thinks are important. The Environmental Agreement states that these recommendations are to be taken seriously and be given full consideration. EMAB is comprised of parties to the Environmental Agreement (Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Tłı̨chǫ Government, Diavik Diamond Mines, GNWT, North Slave Metis Alliance, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Government of Canada, Government of Nunavut) with each party appointing a member to the Board. YKDFN appointed member is the Environment Director.
Ekati Diamond Mine – The Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency (IEMA) is the public watchdog of Ekati Diamond Mine. The Agency is set up as a non-profit Society that works together to review Dominion Diamond Mines ULC’s environmental reports and management plans for Ekati Diamond Mine. Recommendations are made to the company and various government regulators about how best to protect the environment around the mine. The Agency is comprised of seven society members that have been appointed by their respective organization or government (Akaitcho Treaty 8 First Nations – specifically Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation and Yellowknives Dene Frist Nation-, Tłı̨chǫ Government, Kitikmeot Inuit Association, North Slave Metis Alliance, Government of Canada, GNWT, Dominion Diamond Mines ULC) these cannot be employees of the government or company. The Akaitcho Treaty 8 First Nation appointed director is Tim Byers.
De Beers Mining Canada – The Snap Lake Environmental Monitoring Agency (SLEMA) main purpose is to act as a public watchdog organization to ensure environmental regulatory compliance by De Beers Mining Canada and to ensure an appropriate and comprehensive inspection process by government regulators. The Agency was established as part of the environmental agreement between De Beers Mining Canada, the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the affected Aboriginal groups, which are represented by the Tłı̨chǫ Government, Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the North Slave Metis Alliance. Snap Lake Environmental Agency’s Board is comprised of eight representatives from the four signatory Aboriginal groups. YKDFN has appointed contractors to sit as members on this board – Beth Keats (board member) and Greg Empson (board executive).
Giant Mine – The Giant Mine Oversight Board (GMOB) independently monitors, promotes, advises and broadly advocates the responsible management of the remediation of the Giant Mine site. It also manages a research program focused on finding a permanent resolution for the management and disposal of the arsenic trioxide stored underground at the Giant Mine site. A multi-party agreement was signed between the Government of Canada, Government of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, North Slave Métis Alliance, Alternatives North and the City of Yellowknife that established the board as an independent entity administered by a six-member Board of Directors. YKDFN appointed Dr. Kathleen Racher to this board.