Okalik: Jericho a reminder of devolution’s importance

“We believe Nunavummiut should be the principal beneficiaries of our natural resources.”


Premier Paul Okalik used last week’s official opening of the Tahera’ Diamond Corp.’s Jericho mine to remind Prime Minister Stephen Harper about why getting a devolution agreement is important to Nunavut.

“We believe Nunavummiut should be the principal beneficiaries of our natural resources. Devolution will strengthen Nunavut by giving our territory more responsibility over its resources and allow us to allocate resource revenues,” Okalik said.

The phrase “principal beneficiaries of our natural resources” is a code describing the kind of devolution deal that Nunavut wants: an arrangement that lets the territorial government take the lion’s share of royalty money from mineral, oil and gas production on Nunavut’s public lands.

At this summer’s Council of the Federation meeting, provincial premiers endorsed the idea that Nunavut residents should be the “principal beneficiaries” of natural resource royalty revenues.

But talks on a devolution agreement, which would transfer responsibility for management of natural resources on public lands from Ottawa to Nunavut, have yet to start.

The GN, which appointed former Yukon premier Tony Pennikett as its negotiator, is still waiting for DIAND minister Jim Prentice to get a negotiating mandate from cabinet and to appoint a federal negotiator.

Okalik attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Jericho mine this past week, on Aug. 17, along with Harper and Prentice.

Tahera’s small open-pit mine produced its first batch of diamonds this past January, and went into full commercial production on July 1.

In its early months, company workers processed low-grade material lying at the top of the Jericho kimberlite pipe, yielding about .3 carats of diamonds for every tonne of material extracted.

But as they dig deeper, they expect that rate of production to improve. In the second quarter, miners extracted a 59-carat diamond worth about $400,000 and two lower quality diamonds weighing 101 and 103 carats.

Tahera also has high hopes for another kimberlite pipe called “Muskox,” which it’s exploring with DeBeers.

Earlier this year, they extracted a 900-tonne sample from the Muskox pipe and sent to a lab in Thunder Bay, Ont. for testing. Those test results will tell them what to do next in moving the Muskox project forward.

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