Canadian Mining Journal

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DOING SOME DIGGING Canada’s New Ice Age

The brilliant shine of the watery sun on hard ice is as much a part of our Canadian winter as the hockey that is pl...


The brilliant shine of the watery sun on hard ice is as much a part of our Canadian winter as the hockey that is played on it. So too, now, is the knowledge that Canada is the world’s third largest producer of diamondsthose brilliant, icy gems hiding for so long beneath our northern lakes. We rank before South Africa, behind only Botswana and Russia, by value. This is a remarkable achievement for an industry that didn’t exist a decade ago.

As soon as we are done patting ourselves on our collective back, let’s look at some of the figures recently announced by Statistics Canada.

Since production began at the Ekati diamond mine in 1998, 13.8 million carats of diamonds, worth $2.8 billion, have been unearthed. “This is roughly equivalent to a 1.5-kg bag of ice each day for five years,” added StatsCan, “with each bag worth $1.5 million.”

By the end of last year, with Canada’s second diamond mine, Diavik, in production, this country produces 15% of the world’s diamonds. Not only are Canadian diamonds plentiful, they are of exceptionally fine quality. Purchasers are assured that none of the proceeds from their sale go toward conflicts in less developed countries.

The supply of quality Canadian diamonds continues to grow. The Ekati mine will produce between 4 million and 5 million carats in each of the next 11 years. The Diavik mine is slated to turn out 8 million carats/year for 20 years. The Jericho mine should yield 390,000 carats/year for eight years beginning in 2005. And the Snap Lake project will produce 1.5 million carats/year for 18 years beginning in 2006.

Canada’s diamond industry is big business in the Northwest Territories. Between 1998 and 2002 it spent $1.8 billion on capital projects. Spending continues to rise, with the prospects good for the Jericho project in Nunavut, Snap Lake (also in the NWT) and many hopeful properties scattered across northern Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Don’t forget that sales of equipment, services, goods and transportation benefit from diamond mining. Plus there are about 2,200 high-paying jobs for Northerners and Aboriginals.

Here is an eye-opener: StatsCan says that between 1998 and 2002 diamond development amounted to roughly 12% of all investment in metal and mineral resource development in Canada. Diamond exploration added up to 23% of all money spent on mineral exploration in Canada for the same period.

Various governments will benefit to the tune of billions of dollars from the diamond industry. Over the life of the Ekati, Diavik and Snap Lake mines, the estimated revenue will be $1.6 billion in royalties, $2.6 billion in federal business taxes, $1.3 billion in territorial business taxes, and $4.7 billion in employee and other business income taxes. Diamonds are more than just a girl’s best friend.

So whether you prefer your ice under your skates or on your finger, there is a great deal of both kinds in Canada this winter.