De Beers, First Nations protesters reach an agreement to end blockade

The De Beers diamond mine near Attawapiskat


TIMMINS, Ont. - A First Nations blockade to the De Beers Victor diamond mine in northern Ontario ended peacefully late Thursday night.

The blockade was dismantled following discussions between company representatives and protesters from Attawapiskat, located about 90 km away.

A group of about 16 protesters set up the blockade on Monday. They were camped out on the winter supply road leading to the mine.

The blockade was established to express their concerns about employment and training opportunities at the mine.

Tom Ormsby, director of external and corporate affairs for De Beers Canada, said the blockade came down at about 7 p.m., and the first supply convoy reached the mine shortly after 9 p.m.

The annual winter road program is the main method of bulk re-supply to the mine. The program provides goods such as lube and oil, camp supplies, spare parts, tires, new equipment and fuel.

De Beers contracts local businesses to build and maintain the winter road as well as deliver the fuel and freight.

Those contracts are worth millions of dollars and create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in the local communities each winter.

The Impact Benefit Agreement between De Beers and Attawapiskat that resulted from years of negotiations includes regular payments to a trust fund for Attawapiskat. De Beers says it has also conducted at least $300 million worth of other business with the reserve.

About 100 members of the reserve also work at the mine.

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