Attawapiskat Cree Fight De Beers’ Dump and Ring of Fire Mining

By Dr John Bacher and Danny Beaton, Mohawk of the Turtle Clan.

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska.

*Content warning: This post has mention of Residential Schools and cultural trauma.

On April 5, 2021, the day after the Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Neskantaga Nations asked for a moratorium on any steps to facilitate mining in the Ring of Fire, the diamond mining firm De Beers Group announced its application to expand a dump in its former Victor Mine. Located in the James Bay Lowlands, 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat, the mine has been closed since 2019. But De Beers received permission to use it for a limited scale dump.

De Beers is asking the Ontario government for permission to have a dump of 97,000 cubic meters of waste. This has sparked suspicions in Attawapiskat as this level is just below the 100,000 threshold for a full review under Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act. While not formally applying for a third stage, De Beers has indicated that such a proposal would be coming forward in the future.

The community of Attawapiskat sees itself faced with a 200,000 cubic meter dump, sufficient for a medium-sized Ontario city, which will evade environmental reviews through fragmented staging. The dump application was shortly followed up by a dramatic admission by De Beers. In response to a hard-waged law battle by Ecojustice, based on evidence gathered by the Wildlands League, De Beers pleaded guilty to concealing mercury discharges from the Victor Mine. The outrage over this has been exacerbated by De Beers’ requests to end pollution monitoring from the abandoned mine in the future.

Plans to turn the Victor Mine into a massive dump have intensified opposition to the Ring of Fire mining scheme in Attawapiskat. The Cree Band has sought a court injunction to overturn the Ontario government’s recent efforts to open the Ring of Fire area to mining exploration.

In the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently, lawyer Kate Kempton spoke for the Attawapiskat Cree against mining in the Ring of Fire. She spoke of “The conflicting forces at work loom large over the fate of climate change, the environment, the economy, Attawapiskat, its rights, its culture.” She explained that mining plans meant the Hudson Bay “lowlands cannot stay in place”. Kempton denounced what she termed “the infamous Ring of Fire”, whose exploitation for mining wealth would contribute to an accelerated warming of the planet.

To oppose the dump expansion scheme send an email to:

By Danny Beaton:

Indigenous peoples in Attawapiskat have suffered enough from mining and exploitation, colonialism and Western ideology. They were less able to fight exploitation at times because they are in the North and have been more isolated than Indigenous peoples of the South. Maybe Christianity has played a part in closing eyes to exploitation, just as Residential Schools have played a part in creating culture shock and cultural trauma to Indigenous peoples in Canada. The greatest conciseness that the Indigenous people have is their connection to Mother Earth and the fact that the land and water is healing them even just by living on the earth.

The power of Mother Earth is a healing power that Indigenous people of the Amazonian feel in their homeland too. Indigenous people born and living in Attawapiskat have seen the mining corporations of Toronto make land claims on their territories and homelands and take diamonds, gold, silver and billions of dollars in minerals away, while they struggle from culture shock. After the mining companies have taken and extracted all minerals, they leave behind toxic waste and pollution that kills life. Now, the mining companies want to create a garbage dump up North near Attawapiskat, while continuing to expand mining within The Ring of Fire Project.

How can Mother Earth take this kind of punishment after all she has given us Human Beings already? Thirty years ago there was hope of healing Mother Earth. Now we must use our minds and energy in a Sacred Way and support all those who are still fighting for life and creation. These things were said to us by our old elders and Wampum that we were to travel down the same rivers in our own canoes and respect each other as long as the water flows!

If there is a real Canadian Government — is it just for show or is it for a body of citizens who protect life and real justice? Watching the destruction of Mother Earth continue and Indigenous peoples all over the world running for peace makes it easy to try and create justice wherever we all can.

In The Spirit of my Elders, Chiefs and Clan Mothers, thank you for listening.

Photo Credit: Danny Beaton and Danny Matthews Cree Hunter, Berry Picking Cochrane Ontario (2008) by Alicja Rozanska.

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