Crucial week for Dominion Diamond’s Ekati mine

Crucial week for Dominion Diamond’s Ekati mine

Ekati mine aerial view, August 2010. (Image by Jason Pineau, WikiMedia Commons)

Canada’s Northwest Territories environmental watchdog began Monday a series of public hearings about Dominion Diamond’s (TSX, NYSE:DDC) proposed expansion of the Ekati diamond mine in Yellowknife.

The sessions aim to evaluate the project's potential environmental impacts, as well as local support, according to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.

The proposal, dubbed the Jay pipe, is located near Ekati’s existing Misery pit. Dominion believes opening up Jay – by building a dyke, draining part of a lake and digging an open pit – will keep the mine open for an additional 10 years, to 2030

Aboriginal groups worry about the effects of the expansion on the region’s caribou herds, but the company has promised it would make every reasonable concession to caribou, including a “road mitigation plan” designed to reduce the risk caribou face from the mining operation.

Last week, Dominion said it also plans to begin construction on a different, already permitted diamond pipe in the first half of next year. Without either expansion, Ekati's will run out of its existing reserves run by 2020.

After the upcoming hearings, the Mackenzie Valley Review Board will make a recommendation to the government regarding whether or not the project should go ahead.

Ekati employed a total of 1,336 workers as of 2013. Half of those workers are listed by Dominion as "Northern."