First Nations near proposed Sask. diamond mine cautiously optimistic about future (CBC News Saskatoon – November 18, 2019)

Mining giant Rio Tinto announced plans to exercise options in Star-Orion South Project, buy majority stake

Three First Nations in central Saskatchewan say they’ve begun informal talks with a large multinational mining company planning a large diamond mine project in the area.

On Friday, Rio Tinto Exploration Canada (RTEC) gave notice it would be exercising its options to enter into a joint venture agreement with the project’s current owner on the Star Orion South diamond project. If successful, the move would eventually leave Rio Tinto with a majority stake.

The potential change in ownership would be welcome, according to the James Smith Cree Nation. For years, the First Nation has been battling with the mine’s current owner, Star Diamond Corporation (formerly Shore Gold).

“We had a memorandum of understanding with them, but they quickly walked away,” said spokesperson Winston McLean. “We never got anywhere with that company.” In 2018, the First Nation vowed it would stop the mine unless the company signed a benefits agreement, involved James Smith in environmental monitoring programs and protected sacred areas from development.

Now, with a potential new owner, the First Nation says it is hopeful some of its concerns will be addressed. “Rio Tinto’s approach has been very mature, very enlightened,” said McLean. “It gives us hope that something could be worked out.”

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