Attawapiskat Protesters Block Ice Road Leading To De Beers Diamond Mine

Attawapiskat

First Posted: 02/05/2013 3:29 pm EST Updated: 02/06/2013 9:08 am EST

De Beers Canada says a group of Attawapiskat residents is blockading the main winter road leading to the company's Victor diamond mine in northern Ontario.

De Beers says the blockade began Monday evening on a road the company uses to move in supplies like fuel, machine parts and equipment that would be too heavy to fly in.

Spokesman Tom Ormsby says the blockade has not yet impacted the mine's operations, but has forced De Beers to cease operations on the road.

The mine -- 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat -- has a large aboriginal workforce, but First Nation has complained that its share of the bounty from the mine isn't getting back to the community.

A federal review of the relationship between the Victor mine and Attawapiskat showed that government support for training and capacity did not start soon enough to deal with the huge lack of skills in the First Nation.

Ormsby says De Beers has an annual resupply program to deliver non-perishable items such as oil and new equipment to the mine over the ice road.

"Our program is usually about 30 days in duration, while the road itself is usually open several weeks longer than our needs," Ormsby said Tuesday in an email.

"Supplying the mine is a year-round exercise by air, but we save the bulk of the program for the winter road because it is the most cost-effective way to deliver these larger and predictable items," he said.

A representative of the Attawapiskat community could not be reached for comment.

(The Canadian Press, APTN)

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