by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services
NNSL (OCT 30/96) - Dave Grundy of the Yellowknife RCMP is back in town after a month-long stint in Australia to learn about the effects of diamond mining on policing.
"It won't have a big impact from a general policing point of view," says the RCMP staff sergeant. "But from a specialized policing standpoint, there will be special anti-theft squads for the diamonds."
Grundy is the first of three officers to return from a visit the world's largest diamond mine. The RCMP sent them to investigate the social effects of diamond mining.
Australia's mine is 200 kilometres from Kununurra, a remote town of 3,000 people that seems to have only benefited from the mine, according to Grundy.
"Everything was very positive," he says. "The mine jump-started their economy, and now 17 years later, they no longer depend on the mine."
The industry has also had a positive impact on the aboriginal people who live in the area of the mine.
Argyle Diamond Mines requires all employees to spend at least a day in the bush with the native Australians. The program is set up to teach them to respect the aboriginal land.
In recent years, the mine has started a training centre for mining after the aboriginal people asked for one.
Security at the Australian mine is tight, with several restricted areas that only those with ID cards can access. Some require two cards.
In the highest-security area, two employees count the diamonds using a shovel while on closed-circuit TV. If they drop something on the floor, they aren't to pick it up or even to touch the rocks with their hands, which must always remain in sight.
Argyle Diamond Mines went through some security problems five years ago when several employees were caught stealing. Since then, there have been few security breaches.
Grundy does anticipate a minor increase in crime associated with the influx of people into Yellowknife. This might have a small impact on general policing, in which case more officers may be added to the Yellowknife force.
He says the preparation work for the diamond industry is a first for the RCMP.
"We are taking the proactive approach," he says. "As a community, we are preparing for this, and when it does come on line it will be a positive thing for the NWT."