Governor Praises Alaska Miners
Tour of Canadian Diamond Mines
July 13, 2004
Juneau, Alaska - More than two dozen Alaskans visited the diamond
mines of Canada's Northwest Territories in the first such tour
organized by the Alaska Miners Association, prompting Governor
Frank Murkowski to congratulate the organization for its work
in furthering cross-border cooperation.
"Alaska and its neighbors
in the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories and throughout
Canada share a common goal of responsible development to meet
worldwide demand for our resources," the governor said.
"Whether drilling for oil and gas, hard-rock mining for
gold, digging for base metals - or even mining diamonds - northerners
have a lot of knowledge to share with each other, and visits
such as this one are key to building a close, working relationship.
Anytime we can get together and discuss mutual problems, ideas
and successes, everyone benefits," he said.
Production from two large diamond mines, about 190 miles northeast
of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, near the waters
of Lac de Gras, has made Canada the third largest producer of
diamonds in the world.
"The Diavik mine is the richest diamond deposit on a value-per-tonne
basis on the planet, and the Ekati mine falls within the top
five," said a June 2004 research report by Canaccord Capital
Corp., a Vancouver, B.C.-based investment adviser firm. "By
2007, we forecast that Canada may challenge Russia for the second
spot," the report said. "Our view is that this group
of professionals is now world class."
The Diavik mine went online in 2003, producing 3.8 million carats
in its first year, according to its owner, Diavik Diamond Mines
Inc. Full production is estimated at twice that volume. The majority
owner in the venture is worldwide mining giant Rio Tinto of London.
The Ekati mine started production in 1998 and employs more than
700 workers. Australian mining and energy company BHP Billiton
Ltd. owns 80 percent of the venture, which is expected to produce
up to 4.5 million carats a year.
"Diamond exploration right now is a huge, huge part of the
exploration in North America," said Steve Borell, executive
director of the Alaska Miners Association. In addition to production
and further exploration in the Northwest Territories, companies
are exploring for diamonds in Canada's Yukon and Nunavut territories
and even a little bit in Alaska, Borell said. "The timing
for this tour was right."
The three-day tour ran Tuesday
through Thursday, July 6-8, and included 25 Alaskans and participants
from the Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Colorado, Oregon
and California. Alaskans included mining company, Native corporation,
university and government officials.
The Alaska Miners Association
organized similar tours of Canadian gold and base-metal mines
in the early 1980s, and a Russian mine tour in 1993, Borell said.
In addition to touring the diamond mines, the group met in Whitehorse
with Yukon Territory mining officials and in Yellowknife with
Northwest Territories government officials.
The majority of diamonds are found in a volcanic rock called
kimberlite. Eruptions carried the diamonds from where they were
formed many miles deep in the earth to near the surface, through
what are called kimberlite pipes, where they are mined by open-pit
or underground methods.
"Diamond-bearing kimberlites are rare," the Canaccord
Capital report explained. "More than 3,200 kimberlites have
been found throughout the world, but only about 70 to 80 have
contained commercial quantities of diamonds. Of these, we estimate
14 have been identified in Canada in the past decade in the Lac
de Gras region alone. "We estimate the gross value of the
Ekati, Diavik and Snap Lake reserves combined at roughly $25
billion to $30 billion (U.S.)," the report said. A third
diamond project, Snap Lake, is expected to open in 2006/2007.
Source of News Release:
Office of the Governor
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