On August 18 Diavik Diamond Mine announced a donation from the Rio Tinto Disaster Relief Fund to United Way NWT, a non-profit organisation that works to support Northwest Territory non-profits and charities, in a prompt response to the emergency in Canada's Northwest Territories (NWT). Wildfires had threatened to engulf parts of the capital Yellowknife as well as many other communities and mass evacuation ensued.
Diavik sits in one of the most challenging environments in the world: the sub-arctic tundra, one of the world’s pristine environments with one of the most delicate ecosystems. Rio Tinto is committed to protecting the biodiversity of this unique landscape. It also claims to mine some of the world’s most ethical diamonds with a minimal impact on the local land, water, and wildlife. The buildings on site have been designed to be removed. And when mining ends the embankments will be reclaimed and lake water will flow back into the open pit
Addressing immediate crisis requirements
The money donated will directly assist registered charities to address immediate crisis requirements, with an emphasis on essential needs such as food, fuel, and other critical incidentals for NWT communities and evacuees.
Diavik Diamond Mine President and Chief Operating Officer Angela Bigg said: “At Diavik, we understand the importance of community resilience and timely support. Our hearts go out to everyone impacted, which includes many of our own employees. This contribution is a testament to our long-standing commitment to supporting our communities, especially when they need it the most. Our partnership with the United Way will help ensure that the necessary resources promptly reach those in dire need.”
Tracy St. Denis, Board Chair of the United Way NWT, added: “We are incredibly grateful for this monumental donation to support NWT residents. As people are forced to evacuate from their communities across the Northwest Territories, the need will only continue to grow, and it’s heartening to see Diavik step up and contribute significant funds to help evacuees and emergency efforts.”
Assisting communities through challenging times
The UWNWT emergency response programme has been pivotal in assisting communities through challenging times. The fund has been structured to ensure that all donations are directed for the purpose they were intended. Under Rio Tinto’s parameters, registered charities are able to apply for the funding, however individual recipients are not eligible. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting indigenous governments and community-led efforts, and looks forward to working with the United Way to ensure a streamlined community-centred approach. The company says it is continuing to monitor the situation and evaluate the needs of the communities, as well as our employees and contractors.
There are many organisations who received funding from UWNWT for their wildfire response efforts that are under-resourced and are led by people who have also been impacted by the wildfires. In August 2023, it distributed over $400,000 in funding to community organisations, community governments, Alberta Reception Centres for NWT Evacuees, and Indigenous governments to help with costs associated with evacuations and wildfire relief. UWNWT has been provided granular details on the grants that have been distributed. The organisation is itself a volunteer-run charity in the NWT that specialises in providing funding directly to charitable organisations in the NWT. The organisation is a separate legal entity from United Way Canada, and is governed by an independent board of directors made up of people from the Northwest Territories.
The organisation has one permanent part-time contractor, working an average of 10-15 hours per week to support UWNWT. During emergencies, it engages one additional part-time contractor to support the emergency response. In rare circumstances, such as the most recent Yellowknife, Hay River & Fort Smith evacuations, UWNWT has engaged some additional support to help with finances, communications and other needs.