De Beers Canada receives fine for 2017 Snap Lake diesel spill

Aerial view of Snap Lake. Credit: De Beers

De Beers Canada has been fined C$350,000 by Canada’s Environment and Climate Change ministry for a diesel spill at the Snap Lake diamond mine in Northwest Territories.

In December 2017, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) enforcement officers responded to a report of a diesel spill at the company’s Snap Lake mine. The diamond mine, now non-operational, is located on the Canadian tundra just south of the Arctic Circle, about 220 km northeast of Yellowknife.

An ensuing investigation by the ECCC revealed that up to 1,125 litres of diesel spilled during a fuel transfer between two above-ground storage tanks.

However, a spill report from at the time suggested that more than five times that quantity of diesel had actually been spilled. The report said a mine attendant had forgotten to close a tank outlet valve ahead of a shift change while trying to transfer the diesel from one tank to another.

Under the Environmental Protection Act, this incident would cost De Beers a fine of between C$100,000 and C$4 million.

On July 25, 2022, De Beers pleaded guilty to one offence under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and was sentenced to a C$350,000 fine in Yellowknife Territorial Court. The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund to support projects that benefit the natural environment.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry, which contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.