DOING SOME DIGGING Diamonds Promising Shining Future

Last week Edmonton was the site of a diamond industry roundtable led by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). Governmen...



Last week Edmonton was the site of a diamond industry roundtable led by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). Government, industry, Aboriginal groups, academia and others discussed the growing needs, challenges and opportunities of Canada's diamond industry. Consideration was given to financing, security, valuation, labour force development, marketing, and opportunities for Aboriginal people.

Canadian diamonds are much prized for their quality and the fact that profits do not support bloody conflicts in less fortunate nations. Consumers appreciate that fact as much as the beauty of Canadian gems. Buying them is a win-win situation. Instead of fuelling rebellion and war, owning a Canadian diamond strengthens our economy, provides well-paying jobs for Northerners, encourages the entrepreneurial spirit of Aboriginals, and has given birth to a fledgling diamond-cutting industry. Buyers are willing to pay a premium for our diamonds, and it is money well spent.

There are two diamond mines in Canadathe Ekati and Diavik mines in the Northwest Territories. The Ekati mine at Lac de Gras is 80%-owned and operated by BHP Billiton. It officially opened in October 1998 and regularly contributes 6% by value and 4% by weight to the world's diamond production. The newest producer, Diavik, has slated its opening ceremonies for July 2003, and production will peak at over 6 million ct/year. The new mine is a joint venture between Diavik Diamond Mines (60%) and Aber Diamond Mines (40%). Also on the horizon are the Snap Lake mine of De Beers Canada, for which public environmental hearings were completed earlier this month. The Jericho project in Nunavut and the Victor project in Northern Ontario hopefully will be producers, too. And there is no shortage of junior exploration companies wanting to find their own minable pipes.

The bottom line for Canada's diamond industry is thoroughly in the black. Producers have excellent deposits, ready access to skilled labour from exploration through retail preparation, and a market desirous of their product. Diamonds have a shining future indeed.

The bottom line for Canadians is equally attractive. Our federal government is leading the way toward ensuring conflict diamonds are kept out of the market by supporting the Kimberley Process. Diamonds are making a positive and growing contribution to our national (and particularly Northern) economy every year.

The Hon. Herb Dhaliwal, federal minister of natural resources, summed the situation up in his keynote address at the roundtable. "I believe that we have what it takes for global success," he said. "We have world-class geoscience and geomatics; corporate social and environmental responsibility; technological sophistication of the first order; superior business acumen; and determination. And, of course, world-class diamond deposits. We can become a world-leading industry by developing a vision that integrates social, economic and environmental goals."

How happy it makes an editor at her desk to relate such a promising outlook for a sector of the Canadian minerals industry. I applaud their success and wish them more of the same. If anyone knows which diamond mine might be giving away free samples, please let me know.


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