TORONTO -- A First Nation community in Canada on Tuesday urged De Beers Group to cancel plans for a landfill on its traditional territory, citing threats to millennia-old cultural sites, which the mining company however said studies had not flagged.

De Beers, which is 85% owned by Anglo American, is seeking approval from the Ontario regional government for a landfill for mine demolition waste in the James Bay wetlands area.

The Attawapiskat First Nation said the site was of critical cultural, spiritual and subsistence importance to the Kattawapiskak Cree people.

De Beers has applied to store 97,000 cubic meters of waste there from the Victor diamond mine, below the threshold that would trigger a comprehensive environmental assessment under Ontario law, the indigenous group said.

Global miners face mounting investor pressure to improve relations with indigenous communities after the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in Australia by Rio Tinto last year.

De Beers said the landfill would be within the existing mine footprint and that previous studies had not identified the site as being of cultural or spiritual significance.

"The identification and preservation of cultural and heritage resources is a fundamental part of the process we undertake before and during our mining activities, as well as in our closure planning," it said in a statement.

The landfill would store inert material, with hazardous waste removed for proper disposal, the company added.

Community council member Jack Linklater said it is appealing to Anglo and the government of Botswana, which holds the other 15% of De Beers, to halt the project. "We don't want another Juukan Gorge disaster in our traditional territory," he said.

The Victor mine, which produced about 600,000 carats per year and ceased operations in 2019, is about 90 km (56 miles) west of the Attawapiskat community of 2,000 in northeastern Ontario.

De Beers in 2017 shelved plans to study an expansion after failing to get community support.

About 65% of the site infrastructure has been demolished and about 40% rehabilitated, De Beers said on its website.

(Reporting by Jeff Lewis Editing by Bernadette Baum and John Stonestreet)