In the early years of the Ekati mine operation, BHP Billiton (now Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation, ULC, or DDEC) hosted annual workshops to review their environmental monitoring programs. These workshops were well-attended by Aboriginal communities, regulatory agencies, the Agency, and the company. They were a valuable way to review monitoring results, provide feedback, and recommend changes for the following year. It was also a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to interact and share information, as well as to question the technical consultants doing the monitoring work for BHP Billiton.
In November 2003, BHP Billiton decided to cancel its annual environmental workshops. It had heard from community members that the highly technical presentations and fast pace of the discussions made it difficult to translate. Internal budget constraints were also a factor. Aboriginal communities and the Agency offered suggestions on how to make the workshops more effective. However, BHP Billiton decided it would visit communities individually to present information and gather input. BHP Billiton also decided to conduct the annual workshop only every three years, around the same time it is required under the Environmental Agreement (1997) to produce an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
In 2004, the Agency wrote a letter to BHP Billiton expressing our concern about the company’s cancellation of its annual workshops. The Agency decided to host annual environmental workshops in those years the company does not (while encouraging them to participate). We have done so since 2004. In our environmental workshops, we present the previous year’s results of DDEC’s environmental monitoring programs in an easily understood format, as well as the Agency’s interpretation and recommendations.