Ni Hadi Xa’s genesis starts with discussions that occurred during the leadup to the Environmental Assessment hearing. In late 2012, staff from De Beers, Lutsél K’e Dene First Nation, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and the Akaitcho Interim Measures Office office met in Lutsél K’e to open a discussion on a collaborative approach to providing monitoring support to the impacted communities. The respective community representatives knew their limitations and a new mine would add to their work without providing any assistance to aide in the participation and review of the environmental monitoring for the site. With the other mines, there was third party assistance available through the environmental agreements. Similarly, the company recognized the limitation and wished to ensure that the communities only had the opportunity to participate in environmental venues, but also had support to ensure that the opportunity could be seized in a meaningful way.
Within this meeting there was common ground and general principles were refined and a framework was agreed to – with all parties advocating for a measure requiring the creation of a body. This was a significant change in the approach that mining companies had traditionally employed. Despite the unanimous appeal for the measure, the Review Panel’s July 2014 Report of Environmental Impact Review did not support the parties' request. Nonetheless, the good faith displayed carried through until after the hearing.
Negotiations began in September 2014, when the Parties (now including the Métis of the North Slave Métis Alliance and the Northwest Territories Métis Nation) worked together to select a common negotiations team, including a joint counsel. Though each party would ultimately bring in their own legal counsel for the final review, during negotiations the team was responsible for drafting the agreement in a way that would respect the party’s interests both as a collective, but also as individuals.
Over the next 8 months, the negotiations teams worked to craft an agreement that was unique to the Gahcho Kué situation and met the parties respective interests. The negotiations teams completed their work in April 2014 and the draft agreement was returned to the parties for ratification. Over the next few weeks, each party considered the agreement and six parties signed on to the environmental agreement, now known as Ni Hadi Xa. The final agreement was signed on June 8th, 2014
Ni Hadi Xa Begins
On December 8th, 2014, the parties held the first official meeting of Ni Hadi Xa with one representative nominated from each of the six signatories - Deninu Kué First Nation, Lutsél K’e Dene First Nation, North Slave Métis Alliance, Northwest Territories Métis Nation, Tłı̨chǫ Government and De Beers Canada. From this initial meeting, the development of Ni Hadi Xa was commenced.
Ultimately, the growth and formalization of Ni Hadi Xa (NHX) was limited by the ability and time of the Governance Committee (GC) members – it’s difficult for six people working ‘off the side of their desks’ to rapidly advance the organization. This required staff to complete the major work required. The Traditional Knowledge monitors were hired in May, while the Environment Monitor and the Technical Coordinator were hired in June. While the work was easy initially, as the staff assumed more of the secretariat support and were tasked with actions generated by the GC, the responsibilities grew. Financial management, administrative structures - Subcommittee operations became a reality as the agreement was implemented. Within a few months, NHX was an operational structure, with a significant meeting in September 2016 that charted the course for the winter and laid the foundation for infrastructure planning and construction.