(Nathan VanderKlippe/Globe and Mail, 9 April 2010) -- Diavik Diamond Mine, NWT - Ninety metres below a gaping hole in the subarctic Barren Lands, a huge square tunnel ends at a wall of dark rock. Overhead, water drips from Lac de Gras, the epicentre of Canada's diamond boom. The dripping is a reminder that the lake's shores were moved to make way for an open-pit mine. Now that that pit has reached its bottom, miners are down here digging a network of tunnels to extract what remains of the carrot-shaped deposit of kimberlite that they have been pulling from the ground for nearly a decade. In the light of their lamps, the rock looks black as coal. Hidden inside are the diamonds that have shaped the fate of the Northwest Territories for the past 20 years. Between Diavik and other diamond mines, the wealth at Lac de Gras, about 300 kilometres north of Yellowknife, accounts for nearly a quarter of the territorial economy. Diamonds have pumped billions into local businesses and bank accounts, and have been a catalyst for remarkable social change, including dramatic increases in graduation rates in some aboriginal communities as economic success is passed from generation to generation. But the fact that miners are working 90 metres underground, and not still scraping away the surface, points to the end of the boom. A place already rocked by the global downturn now faces the reality that its payday resource is running out. One former government official warns that a looming lack of jobs may create a “lost generation”; another refers to the coming years as Exodus 4, the latest painful chapter for a territory that has witnessed severe busts before.
Posted 11 April 2010; 10:59:46 PM. Permalink