Joseph Quesnel is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
In early March, the Manitoba Geological Survey and its industry partner, Lynx Consortium, made an important diamond discovery southeast of Thompson. While there is no guarantee the find will lead to a significant mining project, the province should move quickly to enhance the potential by involving industry partners, First Nations and municipalities in the region.
If this development works out, Manitoba would join Ontario, Quebec and the Northwest Territories in profiting from diamond mining. Royalties, employment opportunities and tax revenue may lie ahead from, and in, places where they are sorely needed. Mining is a long-term venture relying on good economic policies, political stability and the prospect of decent returns on investment. The provincial government should be careful, but also reasonably venturesome.
To move forward, the province will have to involve northern First Nations. Indigenous communities would best become true partners in the venture to avoid problems that have plagued some other ventures and communities, such as Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario.
The chief of that isolated community decided that the draft agreement being considered with diamond producer De Beers was inadequate and let the project and the work opportunities go — a lost opportunity.
In 2012, then Grand Chief David Harper of the MKO (Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak) — the organization representing 30 northern Manitoba First Nations — complained that the province was holding up northern mining development by excluding First Nations from discussions and decisions. His criticisms were corroborated by mining executives. The Fraser Institute’s annual Survey of Mining Companies reports and rates mining policy environments around the world.
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