Environment: Mining Diamonds are forever
But what about the jobs?

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (OCT 09/96) - "I think it's time we get off our butts."

That's the view of Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus (left) who insists there's far more diamond dollars to be kept in the territories than is currently anticipated.

The key to capturing those dollars is adding value to our natural resources -- both people and diamonds.

Restating a case he made during his election campaign, Erasmus last week called upon the government to consider establishing a diamond evaluation and sorting plant.

He told the Legislative Assembly they should prevent BHP from "throwing the diamonds in a bag and taking them off to Antwerp (for processing)."

Coupled with the sorting plant should be a mining institute to train northerners to work in mines.

"We don't have the training to take advantage of the BHP jobs," said Erasmus. "We don't even have the training to take advantage of the 150 jobs lost each year to southern miners."

BHP mines are expected to gross revenues of $6 billion in the first 10 years of operation, according to GNWT estimates.

Those numbers, put next to the staggering unemployment rate in the territories make Erasmus' ideas seem a sure bet.

But there's another set of numbers that take precedence.

The government has committed to chop $100 million from its budget this year and the next in an attempt to balance its books by division of the territories.

Erasmus noted: "We have all heard this government say they are going to be innovative and they are willing to spend money to create jobs."

Premier Don Morin said cabinet would consider Erasmus' ideas when assembling the next budget.