Diavik will work to ‘prevent communication breakdowns’ after spill

An aerial view of Diavik Diamond Mine. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio

The Diavik diamond mine says an avoidable communication breakdown was responsible for its failure to report a spill at the NWT mine site in February.

While some 450,000 cubic metres of “underground dewatering water” leaked from a pipeline, both the mine and inspectors say there was no environmental impact as all of that water flowed directly into the same containment pond it was destined for in the first place.

Even so, the mine has acknowledged it had a duty to report the spill to the territorial government – which didn’t happen until more than a month had passed.

In a follow-up letter about the spill filed to the NWT’s public registry last week, Diavik owner Rio Tinto said its staff made a mistake.



“The department responsible for the maintenance of the pipeline mistakenly understood that because the water was reporting to the North Inlet Containment Facility and fully within containment, it was not considered a spill and could be repaired in the spring,” reads the letter, signed by environment advisor Kyla Gray.

News of the spill reached the NWT government just as it was dealing with the separate crisis of the Kearl tailings pond seepage in northern Alberta. Having criticized the Alberta government for its lack of transparency about those leaks, the territorial government appeared to make a statement by proactively issuing a press release about the Diavik spill, its first such press release in years.

Reiterating in her letter that none of the spill escaped containment, Gray said staff at Diavik had been reminded of their responsibilities “with emphasis on environmental reporting requirements to prevent future communication breakdowns.”

While the pipeline was repaired by April 3, Gray wrote that an attempt to begin using it again on April 8 failed because an ice blockage within the pipe couldn’t be cleared. Another attempt would be made once “consistent warmer temperatures” thawed the line, she wrote.



A GNWT inspector’s original March report after being informed of the spill was made public last week.

That inspection report also criticizes Diavik for failing to meet waste management standards set out in its licence to operate.

Waste items like food containers and aerosol cans were “not being properly segregated,” the inspector wrote, committing to a follow-up inspection.