Recent Editorial: DE BEERS DOES THE UNTHINKABLE, by Gary Vivian, Chamber of Mines

14 December 2015

Thank you De Beers for doing the unthinkable

By Gary Vivian, President of the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines

De Beers deserves a huge thank you from Northerners for doing what many might believe is the unthinkable. Let me be the first to say it: “Thank you De Beers for Snap Lake”.

Lest readers think that I mean closing their mine, I do not.

What is quite unthinkable is this.

De Beers came to the NWT in 2005 and brought with them $975 million of their own money to build a diamond mine.

They spent that, and went on to spend over $2.3 billion to construct and operate the mine. Through their supportive northern business policy, they spent over $1.5 billion with northern businesses and joint ventures. Last year alone, Snap Lake spent $126 million with northern companies, including $50 million with Aboriginal businesses and joint ventures. This has helped these companies employ even more people and it has generated significant taxes along the way to governments, including the Tlicho Government.

Over this same period, De Beers provided employment for over 700 people annually. These are some of the highest paying jobs in the country, with generous northern cost of living allowances, pensions and medical plans. They have provided employees with professional counselling, family support, financial planning support, health coaching, smoking cessation, relationship support, stress management and alcohol and drug awareness training. The mine provided over 7,000 person years of meaningful employment over the life of the mine. They have also invested in training programs, both on site and off site, to help more northerners get jobs.

Because of Snap Lake De Beers has been able to provide significant sponsorships and donations to a host of grateful community organizations.

In 2014 alone, they spent a quarter million dollars to support events, programs and activities in 11 NWT communities to support arts, culture and heritage programs as well as a book program to promote literacy .

A quick look at the list reveals De Beers supported a fall fish camp in Gameti, the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation Women’s Group, a mother & daughter sewing program in Wekweeti, the NWT SPCA, the Northern Arts & Cultural Centre, to just name a few of the long list of recipients. That's serious giving back that we often seem to take for granted.

De Beers has operated the mine to high environmental standards, and the company has a full security for mine reclamation.

Check out the facts yourselves. Read their 2014 Snap Lake Mine Socio-Economic Report on the De Beers website.

Now, what’s unthinkable is that they have done all of this despite not being able to turn a profit. Give your head a shake if you think we can convince others to come up here and do this, without making a profit.

And now it’s gone. And what are we going to do?

Well, the first thing to do is to say a loud “Thank you De Beers! We appreciate you and all of your efforts to be great corporate citizens!”

And then it’s up to all of us – and the NWT Government and Aboriginal governments – to roll up our collective sleeves and start helping investors. Let’s make the Snap Lake shut down a short one.

And let’s work on making the NWT more attractive to future investment – if we want it to come back.