DOING SOME DIGGING What’s Hot in Yellowknife: Diamonds, not Gold

Yellowknife was once a city paved in gold. The first discovery was made in 1934, and the Con mine poured the first...


Yellowknife was once a city paved in gold. The first discovery was made in 1934, and the Con mine poured the first dor bar on Sept. 5, 1938. But that era is coming to an end as the city restyles itself as the diamond capital of North America.

Employees at the Con gold mine were taken by surprise late last month when MIRAMAR MINING announced that underground operations will end as of Nov. 30, 2003. The closure is blamed on mounting operating losses despite the steady price of gold in the mid-US$300 range. About 250 jobs will disappear.

Miramar bought the Con mine in 1993 and the nearby Giant gold mine in late-1999. Ore from Giant is processed at the Con mill. Production from the Giant mine will continue until the middle of 2005. By then the new Doris North gold mine at Hope Bay, Nunavut, should be nearing production. At the end of last year measured and indicated resources at Hope Bay totaled 3.24 million tonnes grading 15.7 g/t Au, including 763,000 tonnes in the Doris zone at 23.9 g/t Au. There is an additional inferred resource of 6.86 million tonnes at 12.3 g/t Au.

On Aug. 13, 2003, KINROSS GOLD announced the immediate suspension of operations at its Lupin gold mine at Contwoyto Lake, Nunavut. The mine and mill are on care-and-maintenance in case someone wants to recover the pillars at a later date. The decision affects 235 employees and 70 contract workers.

What's a gold miner to do? Follow the lead of the Yellowknife city fathers, and look to diamond mining.

Yellowknife has been the staging point for many projects in the Far North. People, equipment and supplies have long been flown from there to mining and exploration camps. That is unlikely to change. But destinations will become diamond mines, not gold mines.

Diamond mining is quickly becoming a major sector of the industry. Canada's first diamond mine, the Ekati project belonging to BHP BILLITON, went into commercial production in 1998 from an open pit, and the Koala North underground mine opened late last year. The Diavik mine, jointly owned by ABER RESOURCES and RIO TINTO, officially became Canada's second diamond producer in July this year. The Jericho project of TAHERA CORP. and KENNECOTT CANADA looks like it will be the third one.

I suppose the "yellow" in Yellowknife never referred to gold. It's just as well, or the city might need a new moniker to reflect its latest good fortune. "Whiteknife". "Iceknife". "Diamondknife". Naw ... that doesn't sound right. I'll stick with Yellowknife and remember its proud golden beginnings.


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