Canada: A Diamond-Producing Nation

For many years, the thought of finding diamonds in Canada was little more than a prospector's dream. 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 in 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 produced 1 Mct. By 2003, Canada was the world's third largest diamond producer on a value basis after Botswana and Russia. Ekati's average production over its projected 20-year life is expected at 3–5 Mct/y, accounting for about 3% of world production by volume.

 

Image of Diamonds

The Canadian Diamond Industry

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 to be 8 Mct/y and to peak at 11 Mct, representing about 6% of the world's total supply.

Snap Lake started production in early autumn 2007 and, in full production, is expected to produce about 1.5 Mct/y. It is located near the Ekati and Diavik mines 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 open-pit mine, 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) the numerous advanced exploration projects across Canada ensure prosperous times to come for the economy of many Canadian regions.

Employment

In 2007, the Canadian diamond mining industry employed 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 force 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 the 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 helping reduce the devastating impact that trade in conflict diamonds is having on peace, security and sustainable development in affected countries.

For more detailed information on diamond mining in Canada, go to the Canadian Minerals Yearbook site to access the latest review on diamonds or visit these other sites:

Canadian Trade of Diamonds

Diamonds (Earth Sciences Sector)

Formation of Diamonds

Overview of Trends in Canadian Mineral Exploration

Other Diamond Links