In the world of politics some mud is always flying around. Name-calling and finger-pointing are time-honoured traditions. We have come to expect no less from politicians on the hustings. But we don’t often hear a sitting premier dishing dirt on one of his territory’s leading developers.
On Sept. 8, Premier Stephen Kakfwi of the Northwest Territories delivered a speech in New York City and followed it with an interview during which he said: "De Beers mixes all its diamonds, whether from Siberia or Angola or South Africa or Botswana. They just put it all together. They do not want to identify the source of diamonds because a huge portion of their diamonds comes from countries of dubious character, dubious governments. They do business with guerrilla movements, and people are concerned about it."
How wrong can someone be? And who led Premier Kakfwi to believe this misinformation? There probably are no answers to these questions.
DE BEERS CANADA MINING is developing the Snap Lake underground diamond mine 220 km northeast of Yellowknife, NWT. The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board has given its blessing. Work is steaming along toward full production from room and pillar mining at a rate of 3,000 tonnes/day in the first half of 2006. Snap Lake, De Beers’ first diamond mine outside Africa, will create an estimated 525 permanent jobs.
Both Canada and De Beers subscribe to the Kimberley process, which forbids diamond wholesalers from buying gems from sources where the profits would fund civil unrest. Notably, rebel armies in Angola, Sierra Leone, the Congo, and Liberia have sold diamonds to pay for their activities. Canadian diamonds are prized both for their quality and for the fact that their sales never fund insurgent orgranizations.
De Beers denies Premier Kakfwi’s accusation. So do a number of non-governmental organizationsThe Partnership Africa-Canada, the World Diamond Council and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. De Beers operates diamond mines in Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, all of which are blessed with stable democratic governments.
On Sept. 10 Kakfwi apologized, saying simply his statements "were not accurate."
De Beers accepted his apology and invited him to meet with company officials. Hopefully the meeting will set the record straight in the premier’s mind. More than that it should open a dialogue between the territorial government and De Beers, a process that will prevent future misinformation.
In the end, I doubt this incident made a ripple among news media other than those of us interested in Canadian mining. But shame on Premier Kakfwi for repeating untruths. And good luck to De Beers in their continuing efforts to keep the lines of communication open and avoid similar problems in the future.