The Ní Hadi Xa initiative, meaning “People Watch the Land Together” in the Chipewyan Dëne Sųłné language, was established in 2014 by Gahcho Kué Mine and six Indigenous communities. Together, they conduct environmental and traditional knowledge monitoring at the diamond mine located in the Northwest Territories. Gahcho Kué is a joint venture between De Beers Group and Mountain Province Diamonds.
Ní Hadi Xa is managed by a seven-member Governance Committee, with six of the seven members representing local Indigenous signatory communities – Deninu Kué First Nation, the North Slave Métis Alliance, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, the Tłı̨chǫ̀ Government, the Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation, and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. One seat on the committee is held by Gahcho Kué.
The program employs five Indigenous individuals from local communities, including those with environmental management and traditional knowledge experience. Ní Hadi Xa provides a forum for collaborative environmental monitoring and management, with all policies and monitoring programs co-designed and approved by the Governance Committee. The initiative supports in-depth discussion on mine development updates and proposals, with any environmental monitoring findings or concerns directly relayed to Gahcho Kué for incorporation into the mine’s environmental management and monitoring framework.
The Governance Committee also forms several sub-committees for managing related initiatives, including traditional knowledge programs, finance, and human resources. They meet quarterly to review the implementation of the programs and to discuss and approve any additional work plans.
Ní Hadi Xa was established using learnings from other independent monitoring agencies in the region to create a new and innovative approach to environmental monitoring activities at the mine. The collaborative and cooperative nature of this initiative, prioritizing leadership by local Indigenous communities, can serve as a model for other mining projects – from pre-development to mine closure.
Both Gahcho Kué and Ní Hadi Xa staff have been invited to share this model and their experiences with other mining companies, given their success in building trust and sharing knowledge and information between the company and local communities. By providing an Indigenous-led framework for open dialogue on local environmental priorities, Gahcho Kué is raising the bar for meaningful community engagement.
This initiative was awarded the 2022 TSM Award of Excellence for Community Engagement by representatives of the Mining Association of Canada’s Community of Interest Advisory Panel. Panel members were impressed by the fact that Indigenous community representatives held most seats on the Ní Hadi Xa Governance Committee, and that this Indigenous-led committee is responsible for direction, oversight, and reporting on the initiative. The Panel representatives also appreciated the intentional approach to incorporating Indigenous traditional knowledge responsibilities for program staff.