Attawapiskat diamond mine blockade continues, protesters eye De Beers airport – by Jorge Barrera (APTN National News – February 6, 2013)

An Attawapiskat blockade of a winter road leading to a diamond mine operated by De Beers could last until spring and expand to the company’s airport, says Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

Spence said the handful of protestors who launched the blockade on Monday said they won’t end their protest until they get some concrete changes to the impact benefit agreement (IBA) between Attawapiskat and De Beers.

“The people who are blocking have a lot of concerns,” said Spence, who is currently on sick leave and recovering from her six week-long protest fast.

Spence attended a community meeting held Tuesday evening that ran until near midnight. About 60 people attended the meeting which included De Beers officials. Another meeting began Wednesday at about 5 p.m.

Spence said during Tuesday’s meeting one community member discussed giving De Beers 48 hours to vacate the mine before facing a blockade at its airport. The mining company flies out its diamonds via charters with schedules known only to a few key people.

She said their list of concerns include what they believe to be discrimination and racism at the mine, lack of employment opportunities and training programs, compensation for lost traplines and a clause in the impact benefit agreement between De Beers and Attawapiskat that absolves the company from having to fork over compensation for “unpredictable impacts” the mine could have on the environment.

“These are things that we are discovering. We are reviewing the IBA and there are a lot of items that need to be looked into and ask questions about,” said Spence.

Spence said it may be time to reopen and renegotiate Attawapiskat’s agreement with De Beers, but the band needs to be clear about the ramifications of such a move.

“The IBA is really not working for us…There are some things we need to work and improve the IBA,” said Spence. “If it is going to be reopened, there is going to be impact on certain things, we need to identify those impacts and get some legal advice on this.”

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