The blockade began around midnight Tuesday morning, according to one source familiar with the situation.
The company says the mine is still operating normally. External and corporate affairs director Tom Ormsby told Global News that a “local mine-based team” is heading to the scene to investigate.
“Our mine is 100 kilometres away over the ice road so it takes a bit of time to organize that unscheduled travel and it’s meant for freight & fuel and not employee travel,” Ormsby said in an e-mail.
According to Ormsby, the winter road is used for 30 days out of the year for its “re-supply program.” It delivers larger and “predictable” items, as well as “non-perishable consumables (i.e. – lube & oil, parts, hoses, tires, camp items, any new equipment, etc.) that we use over the course of the year. We also re-supply fuel at the mine that is used by our mobile fleet.”
Due to the protest blockade, the re-supply program has been suspended.
The rest of the year, other supplies, such as perishable items like food, and emergency critical parts, are flown in.
The diamond giant opened the Victor Mine in June 2008, about 90 kilometres west of the reserve.
Prior to that, De Beers and Attawapiskat spent years clashing over how the proposed diamond mine would benefit the community. Construction on the mine began in 2006.
The company and both levels of government contributed to training funds, with De Beers covering the cost of shoring up Attawapiskat’s negotiating team. They signed an impact benefits agreement that sent $325 million flowing to community members over the past six years.
Now, about 20 per cent of the Victor Mine workforce – about 100 people – is from Attawapiskat. Contracts and business connections with the First Nation meant another $53 million flowed into that community of 1,800 people in 2011 alone.
De Beers says the Victor Mine is Ontario’s first diamond mine, and the company’s second in Canada.