* Protesters blocking access to ice road to Victor mine
* Road key corridor to transport fuel, heavy equipment
* Company says blockade could have impact on operations
* Local community members seek compensation, more benefits
By Julie Gordon
TORONTO, Feb 13 Native protesters have blocked
the winter access road to De Beers' Victor mine in Northern
Canada for the second time in less than two weeks, raising
concerns over supplying the diamond project before the spring
thaw makes the site inaccessible except by air, the company said
De Beers, a subsidiary of Anglo American Plc, has a
window of about 45 days to complete its winter transportation
program on the ice road. The company's trucks have so far faced
disruptions on eight of 12 days since the program was launched.
De Beers Canada has notified the protesters and the local
community of a potential legal action in an effort to regain
control of the transport corridor for fuel, machinery and other
large supplies, spokesman Tom Ormsby told Reuters.
"We need action at this point to get the road open, that's
our priority," said Ormsby. "There will be economic consequences
for all involved if we cannot successfully complete this
program, and it impacts the operation of the mine."
The most recent barricade was set up on Sunday by a small
group of protesters who are demanding the company provide
compensation for the loss of traditional trap line territory.
A previous blockade, which ended last week, was rooted in
the terms of a 2005 Impact Benefit Agreement between the mine
and the nearby community of Attawapiskat.
If the company is unable to ship in all the large items
needed for the year, mining operations there could be curtailed,
which in 2011 produced some 779,000 carats.
The project is located in remote Northern Ontario, some 90
kilometers (56 miles) from the community of Attawapiskat. The
mine employs more than 60 people from the aboriginal reserve and
over 100 people from other First Nations communities.
Attawapiskat gained national notoriety last winter after a
housing crisis there brought to light the dismal living
conditions faced by many of Canada's 1.2 million natives.
First Nations across Canada have launched protests in recent
months under the "Idle No More" banner in an effort to raise
awareness over squalid living conditions, addiction and other
social issues on reserves.
De Beers said it provides financial compensation to the
community under the terms of its 2005 deal. It is up to the
community to redirect that compensation to its members,
including those with trap lines affected by the Victor mine.
"This is a long-term partnership and we have to maintain
that," said Ormsby. "But at this particular juncture we have to
stress the urgency of successfully and safely completing this