Back when I joined Dunnedin Ventures (DVI.V), I was excited about the prospect of realising a dream I’ve had for many years to help run a diamond company that does things the right way with the local indigenous groups where we work. As a mining entrepreneur who is also First Nations, I know how challenging things can be between industry and indigenous groups, it was one of the key reasons I was brought into Dunnedin as a Special Advisor, that and my experience in diamonds. Since I left the company less than a year ago, Dunnedin’s board, led by Chris Taylor, seem to have made community relationship building a lower priority and have run into serious problems with the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB).
On April 4, 2016, NIRB made a screening decision recommending that Dunnedin’s Kahuna diamond project be revised or scrapped due to the local groups social and environmental concerns. The NIRB said, “the project has the potential to result in unacceptable adverse ecosystemic and socio-economic impacts.”
I read about this decision online the morning of Apr. 7 in this post and then on CBC.ca, as of the close of trading on Friday, Dunnedin’s board of directors has yet to put out a news release concerning the decision. This is material news as the project is Dunnedin’s key project, and having the local governing body recommend scrapping the project to the federal government is the kind of thing all shareholders should know, immediately. Based on the trading on Friday, it looks like some shareholders knew about the news.
When I was in charge of forming the game plan for exploration and community outreach for Dunnedin Ventures, we were able to do an extensive amount of exploration work on the project last season with no local opposition. I had led the companies efforts to reach out to the local and indigenous government groups with respect for our need to consult, we went up prior to starting exploration work to meet with the local groups in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. In addition, while up there prospecting last summer on the project, I was interviewed by CBC radio and expressed the goals and ideals the company would operate under.
I was dismayed to learn that, after I personally built important relationships last year, comments were directed at the NIRB from the Kivalliq Inuit Association and Chesterfield Inlet’s Aqigiq Hunters and Trappers Organization citing concerns about Dunnedin’s lack of community consultation and its limited transparency with community organizations.
Lack of respect for consultation is something that can cause serious delays in northern Canada, I know this because I have a lot of experience in diamond exploration in the north, and I’m First Nations so I take it very seriously. My guess is the final straw that drove the local groups to oppose the project can be found in a news release Dunnedin put out on Feb. 9/2016.
That news release had a headline about the company closing a private placement to raise funding. Included were some of the details about one of the participants in the placement, Chuck Fipke, in addition to the stock he received, he also received a right of first refusal on the project. Meaning that if anybody comes in with an offer to buy the project, Chuck Fipke has a right of first refusal.
While I was with Dunnedin, I often butted heads with Chris Taylor and the board over their game plan to get Chuck Fipke involved with the company in a formal way. I told them that Chuck Fipke has a bad reputation with First Nations due to his long battle with the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario.
If I was still with Dunnedin, I would have told them that giving Chuck Fipke, a first right of refusal over the project that is on Inuit land would not be well received by the local Inuit, especially if you have not been consulting with them at all.
The recommendation from NIRB has gone to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett who will rule on the screening decision, I find it highly unlikely that they will overrule the locals, but it will be important to watch.
Apparently, in its response, Dunnedin apologized for not hosting community consultations. That isn’t really an apology for ignoring their constitutional responsibility for meaningful consultation, and I would also argue it sends no message of a respect for consultation by the current leadership of Dunnedin.
When I was ousted as a Special Advisor to Dunnedin, I presented my side of the story in this post, I went into my concerns about the way things would go in the future with the local Inuit groups. I had no idea that they would get this bad so quickly. I also expressed that I still believed in the project, but not the leadership and that I would be interested in getting involved again in the future if the board was changed.
I got involved with this project at the start because I’ve long had a dream to lead a diamond company that does things the right way with First Nations. A company that opened up
opportunities for First Nations youth from the ground to the boardroom. A company with utmost respect for meaningful consultation with local indigenous groups. Now that the leadership of Dunnedin messed things up so badly, I’m not sure even I can fix the mess they made.
My reports are for information purposes only, before making any investment decisions it is important to do your homework and speak with your financial advisors.
In closing, although I believe the leadership of Dunnedin has damaged things beyond repair, I will be in contact with key shareholders to let them know that I may consider a return to the company. But before I do that, I will have to get in touch with my contacts in the local Inuit community to see if they feel the damage can be repaired.
All the best,
Allan Barry Laboucan
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