Consultation on the Diavik Diamonds Project has been very extensive. From the exploratory phase when Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. (the proponent) initiated public meetings in late 1993 to the completion of the comprehensive study report (CSR) in June 1999, more than 300 meetings have taken place. Since the proponent filed its initial project applications in March 1998, more than 18 months have been invested in the environmental review by various levels of government.
Opportunities for input and participation, particularly by northerners, along with openness and transparency, were guiding principles for a "made in the North" approach from the outset. The process began with the identification of the responsible authorities (RAs), confirmation of the comprehensive study process and the establishment of a steering committee involving Aboriginal groups and both levels of government between April and June 1998.
Funding for environmental assessments (EA) is usually restricted to reviews by a panel. However, in this instance, in excess of $750,000 was made available to northern stakeholders to help offset the costs of obtaining technical advice and participating in the comprehensive study.
From the beginning, the proponent used a number of consultation tools to reach a variety of audiences about the project and its Environmental Assessment Report, as well as a number of formats for community consultation including open houses which were held in all interested communities. The proponent announced meetings on the local radio stations and in newspapers.
Throughout the development of the Environmental Assessment Report, the proponent funded a variety of traditional knowledge studies, and used community information gathered during the public consultation process to guide the development of environmental baseline studies, the environmental management system, mitigation measures and monitoring programs.
During the consultations, all meetings were recorded and summaries of the key issues raised at both the proponent- and the government-hosted technical meetings were placed on the public registry maintained by DIAND. (A public registry is a collection of all the records produced or submitted on the environmental assessment.)
The Steering Committee, which was established as part of the management structure for the comprehensive study, included a seat for each affected Aboriginal group and a federal and territorial representative (the Government of Nunavut was granted a seat following its creation in April 1999). The Steering Committee met on 17 occasions during the comprehensive study process to discuss issues and make recommendations to the RAs related to the review process, such as ensuring adequate public involvement.
During the environmental assessment review, the Steering Committee agreed with the proponent's proposal to undertake individual consultations with Aboriginal communities lasting up to five days as part of its public consultation plan. The Steering Committee then recommended that an additional government-hosted meeting should follow each of these individual community consultations. Examples of other key recommendations include the Steering Committee's advice to the RAs on the EA guidelines and conformity review, extension of the public review period, guidance on the public technical sessions, and comments on drafts of the CSR.
Following consultations with the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), other federal agencies, non-government organizations and members of the public, the federal government completed and released the Environmental Assessment Guidelines to the proponent in August 1998. The guidelines were scoped broadly to ensure the requirements of the GNWT and the impending Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act were considered.
The proponent submitted its Environmental Assessment Report in September 1998. The RAs announced public consultations for the period September to December 1998. As recommended by the Steering Committee, the deadline for public comment was formally extended to March 1999 to provide Aboriginal groups and Northerners with more time to review and comment on the report.
During this period, federal and territorial government agencies and the Steering Committee identified various technical issues requiring additional study. Public technical sessions on these issues were held in various communities, including Yellowknife, from January to March 1999. Following the two-week Yellowknife session, additional technical workshops were conducted to address the remaining outstanding technical concerns. These included an elders' and scientists' workshop on caribou, a workshop on alternative mining methods, and a further workshop on water quality issues.
As a member of the Steering Committee, the GNWT provided extensive advice during the comprehensive study. It provided resources, expert comment and guidance on wildlife, air quality, social, economic and cultural issues, worker health and safety, and other aspects of the project. The Government of Nunavut provided advice, particularly on transboundary issues, following its creation on April 1, 1999.
The comprehensive study benefited from the participation of interested stakeholders, including the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - NWT Chapter, the Status of Women Council of the NWT, the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, Ecology North, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, the NWT Chamber of Commerce, the NWT Chamber of Mines and a variety of local governments from the NWT and Nunavut. The concerns raised by these groups and other members of the public were considered in the public technical sessions, comprehensive study report and the RAs' response to the public comments solicited by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency during the initial public comment period.
After the public comment period on the proponent's Environmental Assessment Report ended in March 1999, the RAs drafted the CSR with the advice and assistance of federal departments, the GNWT, the Government of Nunavut and the Steering Committee.
In June 1999, following meetings with the Aboriginal leadership and government agencies on the recommendations of the CSR, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development submitted the report to the Minister of the Environment on behalf of the responsible authorities.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) held a public comment period on the CSR in June and July 1999. Over 600 pages of public comment were received in 17 separate submissions. The Agency held a second public consultation period which concluded in early October 1999.
The RAs, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Natural Resources Canada, created the RA caucus to ensure that the comprehensive study met the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, that decisions were made on recommendations put forth by the Steering Committee, and that there was a co-ordinated review of the proponent's Environmental Assessment Report.
Federal authorities with particular expertise, Environment Canada, Health Canada, and Transport Canada, reviewed the Environmental Assessment Report and provided comments. All three federal authorities indicated that the issues within the expertise of their respective departments had been addressed.
In addition, the Agency asked the RAs to consider the issues raised in submissions received during the Agency's initial public comment period, and if necessary, provide information on those issues. The RAs prepared a detailed response which reaffirmed their overall conclusions.
Under the transition provisions of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, the Agency submitted the comprehensive study report to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (the Board) for consultation. Public comments received during the initial public comment period were also forwarded to the Board. In September, the Agency provided the Board with the RAs' response to public comments. The Board provided its views on the CSR and the public comments to the Minister of the Environment on October 8, 1999.