How big is 14 billion?
Bringing mind-boggling diamond numbers into perspective

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 27/98) - Getting a handle on the kind of dollars being mined just north of Yellowknife is about as easy as wrapping your head around what it would feel like to walk from Rae-Edzo to Pluto.

Premier Don Morin noted BHP's Ekati mine is expected to produce $14 billion worth of rough diamonds during the 25 years the mine will be in operation.

Taking a territorial view of the matter, Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus said, "Look at it this way. Our budget is a billion dollars a year, so that's our budget for 14 years."

That's for the rough diamonds BHP will be selling. After the same diamonds are sorted, cut and polished, the value rises to at least as much again.

Ekati is only the first of several diamond mines set to open in the western territory over the next few years.

In an attempt to further public understanding of the dollars involved in the diamond stake, Yellowknifer offers the following comparisons:

  • To meet the challenge of drinking away the profits from the Ekati mine, a beer drinker would have to quaff 107 six-packs per minute, every minute, for 25 years.

  • The amount of money dealers will pay for Ekati diamonds each year would be enough to pay the salaries of four NHL teams composed entirely of Eric Lindros clones.

  • Annual sales of diamonds from the mine will be more than double what the GNWT spends on health and social services.

  • To earn the same amount of money the mine will generate in a year, a newspaper reporter earning average pay would have to work for 15,556 years.

  • If all the KitKat bars you could buy for $14 billion were lined up end to end, they would cover the distance between Yellowknife and Iqaluit 671 times.

  • Last, but certainly not least, $14 billion would be enough, at the two-year discount price, to buy a 122-million-year subscription to Yellowknifer.

Alongside the astronomical figures is the minuscule amount of product that will bring in the dollars.

Ekati mine will produce enough rough diamonds each day to fill a two-litre milk carton. Premier Don Morin reportedly wants to buy a 10th of that -- just a cupful.