Rogue Diamonds: The Rush for Northern Riches on Dene Land


256 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55054-950-2
DDC 346.7104'32'089972





Reviewed by Cathy Eames

Cathy Eames is a Mississauga-based freelance writer.


In 1991, geologist Charles Fipke discovered diamonds in Canada’s
Northwest Territories. The announcement set off “the biggest staking
rush the world has ever seen.” Fipke formed a partnership with
Australian mining giant Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP). Their
explorations around Lac de Gras produced some of the finest diamonds in
the world. The Lac de Gras area is part of a First Nations “land
claim”—Akaitcho Treaty 8—that has not yet been ratified.

In August 1996, Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin granted BHP
conditional approval to develop “Canada’s first diamond mine,”
subject to agreements with five different groups: “the Inuit living
downriver from the mine, the Metis with interests in the diamond fields,
the Dogrib Treaty 11 First Nations, the Akaitcho Treaty 8 First Nations,
and the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) on behalf of the
public.” Author Ellen Bielawski was one of the negotiators
representing the Akaitcho Treaty 8 interests. Rogue Diamonds is her
fascinating insider’s account of the negotiating process on a series
of agreements that had to satisfy all participants, within a 60-day
deadline, so that changing weather and land conditions would not delay
mine construction for a year. “The deadline,” Bielawski writes,
“[meant] squeezing complex negotiations into the equivalent of a
geological nanosecond.” Rogue Diamonds is a compelling read.


Bielawski, Ellen., “Rogue Diamonds: The Rush for Northern Riches on Dene Land,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 12, 2024,