For many years, the thought of finding diamonds in Canada was little more than a prospector’s dream. But that dream became a reality following the discovery, in the 1990s, of several world-class diamond-bearing deposits in Canada’s North.

Diamond exploration began in Canada as early as the 1960s, but major kimberlite discoveries were not made until the 1980s. In 1991, the first economic diamond deposit was discovered in the Lac de Gras area of the Northwest Territories. Canada became a diamond producer in October 1998 when the Ekati diamond mine opened about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. By April 1999, the mine had produced one million carats. By 2003, Canada had become the world’s third largest diamond producer on a value basis after Botswana and Russia.

Canadian Diamond Industry
Canada’s diamond industry has now become an industry worth in the range of $1.5–$2.0 billion with all indicators pointing to potential for future growth. Canadian diamond production in 2007 was about 17.0 million carats, compared to 13.2 million carats in 2006.

Diavik, Canada’s second diamond mine, began production in January 2003. During its projected 20-year life, average diamond production from this mine is expected at 8 million carats per year (Mct/y) and to peak at 11 million carats, representing about 6% of the world’s total supply. Ekati’s average production over its projected 20-year life is expected at 3-5 million carats a year, accounting for about 3% of world production by volume.

Snap Lake started production in early autumn 2007 and is expected to produce about 1.5 Mct/y in full production. It is located in the Northwest Territories about 220 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, and is 100% owned by De Beers Canada. The deposit is unique in that the diamondiferous kimberlite is in the form of a dyke as opposed to the more common carrot-shaped pipe. The kimberlite to be mined over the project life is estimated at 18.3 Mt grading 1.46 ct/t.

The Victor project, Ontario's first diamond mine, began development in January 2006 and came into production in spring 2008. The Victor pipe has mineable reserves estimated at 27.4 Mt averaging 0.23 ct/t. While this ore grade is low, the value of the diamonds extracted, at about $440 per carat, is one of the highest in the world.At full capacity, the mine is expected to produce about 600 000 ct/y over a 12-year open-pit mine life.

Together with these mines, advanced mining projects (such as Gahcho Kué in the Northwest Territories, Foxtrot in Quebec, and Fort-à-la-Corne and Star in Saskatchewan) and the numerous advanced exploration projects across Canada ensure prosperous times to come for the economy of many Canadian regions.

Cutting and Polishing
Canada has a small diamond-manufacturing industry. In 2007, there were six diamond manufacturers operating across Canada located in Yellowknife (N.W.T.), Vancouver (British Columbia), and Matane (Quebec). These cutting and polishing factories employ about 150 workers. The largest of these facilities has an output of up to 1200 carats a month.

The Canadian diamond mining industry employs about 2650 people in mine operations and more than 1500 on-site workers through contractors in support industries such as maintenance, catering, transport, etc. Aboriginal persons generally comprise 30-40% of the work forces at the mines.

Kimberley Process for Rough Diamonds
The Kimberley Process was initiated by South Africa in May 2000 to develop an international certification scheme for rough diamonds to help prevent conflict diamonds from entering legitimate markets. Conflict diamonds originate in areas controlled by rebel groups and are often used to fund military action that targets governments.

Canada was a key player in the development of this initiative and since its inception on January 1, 2003, has been a leader in the implementation of the process to control the conflict diamond trade internationally. Canada passed legislation to control the import, export and transit of rough diamonds in Canada. By participating in the Kimberley Process, Canada is doing its part to halt the devastating impact that trade in conflict diamonds is having on peace, security and sustainable development in affected countries.

Diamonds and Sustainable Development
Canada’s diamond industry is part of a minerals and metals industry that is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters. This highly productive and technologically advanced industry provides a source of stable, high income for northern, remote, and Aboriginal communities.

Canadian mining companies are also leading the way in integrating sustainable development into their activities in Canada and abroad. The Canadian mining industry was the first in the world to develop and adopt a national environmental policy. On the international front, some of Canada’s major mining companies are involved in projects ranging from delivering health, water, and electricity services to reintegrating workers into their communities.

Natural Resources Canada advances the Government of Canada’s commitment to the sustainable development of our natural resources – contributing to their economic importance and to a strong society and communities through knowledge, innovation, technology, and international leadership.

By integrating our economic, social, and environmental goals, we can ensure our quality of life and build the Canada we want, for ourselves and for future generations.


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