Job prospects for NWT huge
At least 1,000 diamond-refining jobs should be expected, says one dealer

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 18/98) - Diamonds could easily mean more than 1,000 jobs refining the gems, according to some predictions.

At the Prospector's Conference in Toronto, figures were thrown out by key players suggesting that the rough diamond market is worth $17 billion Cdn a year.

And at the retail level, it's somewhere in the order of $70 billion at the retail sector.

There was a strong suggestion at the meeting that Canada has the capacity within a few years to produce 10 per cent of the world's diamond output with the present development of two or three diamond mines, said Winnipeg diamond dealer Filip Zimerman.

Even at 10 per cent of the world market, the numbers are staggering.

"That doesn't portray the full potential of the area in the future. It's just a realistic figure of what's on the table at this point.

"They have to understand, here comes a guy from Winnipeg and (he) has connections all over and he sees that everybody is either confused or they're trying to settle for something that they haven't got a clue what they're settling for. The long-term implications are going to be totally huge ... huge, huge," he said.

"People have to understand, if they're going to do something they have to do it now. My personal suggestion would be to look at the full potential of the area, try and structure it in such a manner that some benefits are occurring to the local and native groups and then try to take control of part of the development otherwise you're not going to benefit out of it."

To tackle the problem Zimerman suggested the NWT immediately host a symposium and invite key stakeholders to listen, analyse the potential and then act upon it.

"I don't think it's too late because public opinion is very powerful," he said.

"It's very upsetting to see any commodity that's brand new to Canada, to leave the country with no value added. We are Canadian and we have to fend for ourselves. The time for us just selling and exporting raw materials has to be stopped."

Zimerman pointed out that other small centres around the world that have no access to their raw goods still employ up to 20,000 people.

They have no access like Yellowknife, but their economy is three to five billion dollars a year -- "just from processing things that are not theirs to start with," said Zimerman.