The Rise of Diamond Mining in Canada

As the fifth largest diamond producer in the world by volume, Canada’s diamond industry has risen dramatically since its first mine opened in 1998. When the basis of carat value is considered, Canada ranks in the top three of all diamond-producing countries of the world.

The diamond mining industry in Canada has provided high-income employment opportunities to Canada’s northern communities and has increased the employment rates of the area by approximately seven-fold.

History of Canadian Diamond Mines

Canada’s first surface and underground diamond mine, Ekati, was originally discovered in 1991 and began diamond production seven years after. In 2003, Canada’s Diavik mine was the second diamond mine to open in Canada and soon after followed the opening of Jericho, Snap Lake, Vector and Gahcho Kué mines of the Northwest Territories.

The recent opening in 2016 of the Gachco Kué mine is expected to revolutionize the diamond revenue of Canada by providing an additional $6.7 billion over the next 12 years. Since its opening in 2016, the mine has already successfully generated $440 million to the economy of the Northwest Territories. With an expected production of 4.5 million carats a year, Gahcho Kué is expected to become one of the top 10 mines by weight in the world1.

In 2016, Canada’s primarily French-speaking province of Quebec opened its first diamond mine, Renard, which is located near the Otish Mountains. Expected to yield 1.8 million carats each year for the first 10 years of mining, the Renard contains a possible mineral reserve of at least 22.3 million carats.

Ethically Sourced Diamonds

There are numerous ethical issues surrounding diamond mining in countries around the world. While the “blood diamond” civil wars that plagued countries such as Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone and the Republic of Congo have technically ended, violence in diamond mines remains a serious global concern. In an effort to stop the abuses present in the diamond mining industry, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was launched in 2003.

Made up of 80 countries around the world, the Kimberley Process requires that all participating countries that export diamonds provide certificates that ensure that violent rebel groups did not mine the exported diamonds. Despite this ethical initiative, the Kimberley Process does not prevent the import of diamonds that are associated with killings, beatings, rape or torture by the government army.2 Similarly, environmental effects of the mining processes in the exporting country, associated child labor or adults making less than a dollar a day working in these mines is also not taken into consideration under the Kimberley Process.

Diamonds mined in Canada are held up to some of the highest ethical standards in the world. Environmentally, Canada’s strict environmental laws specifically protect the caribou and other wildlife, water and fish habitats of the surrounding areas of the mine. Free from any violence or health rights abuses, Canadian diamond mines are also committed to respecting their partnership and commitment to local indigenous tribal groups.

Challenges of Mining in Canada

The average temperature for the winter season from November to March in Canada’s Northwest Territories falls between -21 °F and -7 °F. To access the specific areas where diamond mines are located, mine operators must construct a 350 kilometer ice road that is thick enough to support the back and forth movement of heavy equipment and trucks. Time sensitivity is a crucial aspect of the mining process in these areas, as mine operators only have about eight weeks to access this ice road until it begins to melt3.

Once this access road melts, mine operators are only able to access the Northwest Territories’ mines by air. Canadian mines are also required to have complete housing facilities for their workers, as these areas are located far away from the nearest towns.

Despite these economical and logistical disadvantages, diamond mining in Canada has been an extremely successful endeavor that has not only improved employment of the local area and provided a great deal of revenue for the country, but has also done so in a completely sustainable and ethical manner.

Image Credit:

Bjoern Wylezich/ Shutterstock.com

References:

  1. “Canada set to open one of the world’s biggest diamond mines” – The Star
  2. “Violence” – Brilliant Earth
  3. “Diamond Mines in Canada” – Geology.com

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