Diamond mine is 'awesome' employment opportunity: Métis director

By Glenn Hicks
December 3, 2018 - 5:00pm Updated: December 4, 2018 - 8:42am

This region's director for the Métis Nation says the prospect of jobs at the planned Star Orion South Diamond Project is an “awesome opportunity” for her people.

She added the environmental and compensation concerns the local First Nation had with the project was not a priority for her organization whereas securing employment was.

If it becomes operational, the mine in the Forte à la Corne area, about 60 kilometres east of Prince Albert, could run for over 30 years and recover millions of diamonds, injecting billions of dollars into the provincial coffers.

“Any time we can get our Métis people employed and especially with the jobs of this essence … it’s an awesome opportunity I think, and hopefully we can all benefit from it,” Sherry McLennan, the regional director for the Métis Nation Western Region 2 told paNOW.

McLennan was speaking after an information and update session in her office Sunday given by representatives of mining giant Rio Tinto, which has options to mine the diamonds. The reps briefed the Métis leadership before also giving a presentation to certain invited guests, McLennan said. She is also part of a committee of stakeholders that is part of quarterly updates about the long-proposed mine.

“They’re not hiring right now," McLennan said, “The presentation was just to let people know this project is coming and there will be jobs later on for things like heavy equipment operators, and cooks, and so on.”

She said the jobs would provide higher skills and more money so “our Metis people can feel good about themselves and look after their families.”

Star Diamond Corporation, which owns the mining rights on the site, previously announced Rio Tinto’s trench cutting work would shut down for the winter and an on-site bulk sample processing plant would be commissioned in the spring of 2019. It was not clear when full scale operations could commence but the project is expected to employ 700 people.

After the government of Saskatchewan announced its environmental assessment approval for the project in October, members of the local James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN), whose reserve land runs adjacent to the proposed mine, said they would not be supporting the project as things stood. The First Nation said it wanted real benefits from the operations such as revenue-sharing because of the significant environmental and cultural impact it would cause. In response the government issued a statement that said it does not offer revenue sharing on any proposals.

For McLennan and the Metis Nation, the concerns being raised by the JSCN were not a key issue.

“It’s not a priority for us. More importantly it’s jobs to get our families employed and keep that going,” she said. “I know because of where the land is there are also First Nations involved. Some people are looking to get money from [the project]. We want jobs for our people to be employed.”

Rio Tinto was not immediately available to comment on the latest information update with the Métis Nation.

Star Diamond has said the project would create opportunities for Aboriginal people and other people in the area through direct employment.

 

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