De Beers' Tango Extension Project a proposed open pit diamond mine being explored as a way of extending the life of Victor Mine, located in the James Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario, approximately 90 km west of the coastal community of Attawapiskat First Nation. They are undertaking engineering studies and pursuing environmental approvals for the development of this mine, supported by existing Victor Mine infrastructure, and will be consulting with local communities and First Nations as part of that process. And, as CBC News now confirms, "DeBeers Canada says it won't even look at expanding its diamond mining operations near Attawapiskat without the blessing of the community."
Victor Mine is Ontario’s first diamond mine and the second in Canada for De Beers. Since Victor Mine opened in July 2008, De Beers Canada exploration efforts have been focused around extending the resource reserves at Victor Mine. Now, after nearly a decade in production, Victor Mine is running out of diamonds, but De Beers sees potential that Tango could extend the life of the Attawapiskat operation by several more years. "But before it does further exploration," writes CBC News, "chief executive Kim Truter wants the consent of the people of Attawapiskat, even though it's only legally required to consult them." Truter says, "We are really trying to partner in a different way with the community, so they genuinely feel involved in the planning and the thinking and the decision making. It's pointless us actually operating in these first nations areas if we don't have local support."
Describing the current situation, CBC News writes: Support has been shaky in the first nation since the signing of the original agreement with DeBeers in 2005. Band officials boycotted and picketed the grand opening of the mine in 2008 and the road into the mine has been blockaded several times, including in 2013. Recently elected Attawapiskat chief Ignace Gull says many in the community feel shortchanged by the original deal and want things to be different this time. "They want a fair deal on this Tango. We made a lot of mistakes in the past," says Gull. He says concerns in the community range from the environmental impact on the Attawapiskat River to how big a cut of the profits the first nation received. CBC concludes that, "DeBeers is hoping that a decision from the community is just weeks away, but Chief Gull says it will likely take longer. If there is no deal on Tango, or the exploration doesn't turn up good results, the era of diamond mining on the James Bay Coast will likely fade into history after 2018."