DeBeers says there will be several signs of closed northern Ontario diamond mines by year’s end

Diamond mining giant DeBeers says by the end of this year there won’t be much left at the Victor mine near Attawapiskat in Ontario’s far north.

The mine closed in 2019 and the company has been busy decommissioning the site where 500 people once lived and worked.

Senior communications officer Terry Kruger says most buildings have been demolished and the open pit filled with 44 million cubic meters of water and turned into a lake.

“We hope that it looks natural,” he said.

“We recognize these are traditional territories and we want to make sure they are returned to as close to a natural state as possible and they can be used safely by people and animals far into the future.”

A white pick-up truck drives down a ramp inside an open pit mine, with a blue sky visible at the very top
A DeBeers truck descends down into the Victor Mine open pit in 2018, which is about 200 meters deep, all of which is now under water. (Erik White/CBC)

Kruger says that the industrial plants where ore was processed were taken down over the last few years and hundreds of truckloads of materials were taken out on the network of ice and winter roads in the James Bay Lowlands.

The company says many things from the mine complex were donated to the James Bay community, including a fire truck given to Attawapiskat, an airport rescue truck to Moosonee and exercise equipment given to an entrepreneur in Attawapiskat planning to open a fitness centre.

Kruger says the dormitories that housed workers, plus the cafeteria and gymnasium, were knocked down in the last couple of weeks and that wreckage will be stored on landfills on the site, some of which was opposed by the nearby Attawapiskat First Nation.

He says the office complex and remaining buildings should be gone by the end of the year. There are currently about 90 workers at Victor living in tents and they are also expected to be done by year’s end.

An aerial photo shows pipes, equipment, containers and some small buildings surrounded by different colored patches of dirt and snow in the background.
Little remains of the once sprawling Victor mine complex in April 2023, with the remaining buildings and the 90 people still working on the site expected to be gone by year’s end. (DeBeers Group Canada)

After that, DeBeers will occasionally send crews to keep up with its environmental monitoring obligations, which is expected to continue until 2039.

The company has planted some 1.4 million native trees and shrubs on the site in recent years, with seeds collected by children from Attawapiskat.

DeBeers was recognized for its work at Victor, with the 2022 Tom Peters Memorial Mine Reclamation Award, presented by the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Land Reclamation Association, which Kruger said the company was “deeply humbled” to receive.

Three two-storey gray buildings stand in a row on a dusty patch of earth, surrounded by forest and blue skies.
The housing for some 500 workers at Victor Mine was recently demolished and the remains put in a landfill on site. (Eric White/CBC )

“We’ve been working on closing Victor Mine for close to 20 years, even before we started construction,” he said.

“So closing the mine has always been at the forefront of our minds, even before we started to operate.”

DeBeers had looked at mining a second diamond deposit in the Attawapiskat area known as Tango.

Kruger says the company has no plans to develop the property, but continues to hold onto the mining rights.

Heavy machinery loads building wreckage onto a truck while steel pilings of the building remain in the ground, surrounded by a snowy landscape.
While some of the remains of buildings are being landfilled, most have been trucked out on ice roads, including some 400 loads in 2023. (DeBeers Group Canada)