Diavik, Rae strike deal
Contract worth $12.6 million

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 27/99) - Diavik Diamond Mines has awarded a major contract to Tli Cho Logistics, it was announced Wednesday.

Tli Cho Logistics is 51 per cent owned by the Dogrib Rae Band with Atco Frontec Services owning the remaining stake.

The one-year deal, worth $12.6 million, covers a host of mine services which will be needed to build and maintain the Lac de Gras mine.

The services deal is one of three Diavik contracts awarded so far.

Others include a $4.6-million contract to Ek'Ati Services and a $1.9- million contract to Northern Transportation Co. Ltd.

Diavik Diamond Mines will be awarding numerous other contracts in the coming weeks.

Tli Cho will provide labour, services and equipment for the first year of the proposed Lac De Gras project.

Diavik Diamond Mines president Stephen Prest was in Rae for the signing and said the company looks forward to a long relationship with the Dogrib people.

"We are in a position where we are want to learn from the communities that we are joining and we're hoping that our company will be accepted within your community," Prest said.

"If you help us nurture our company, I'm thinking we will be very successful in that goal."

Dogrib Grand Chief Joe Rabesca was pleased with the contract, but cautioned on the reality of federal environmental review of the proposed mine.

"This all hinges on the approval of Ottawa," Rabesca said. "We don't know what way they are going to go."

Rabesca said the other Dogrib chiefs were all kept up to date with the deal, but he was braced for criticism from the other chiefs for signing the deal.

"Somebody had to take the lead role here, and that's what we did," he said.

Chahe Arslanian from the Belgian diamond processing company, Arslanian Cutting Works, said the signing was the first step in having a diamond polishing facility built in Rae.

The Dogrib and the Arslanian family have a joint- venture company which is proposing to cut and polish Ekati diamonds in the NWT. BHP has agreed to supply rough diamonds to the joint- venture.

"We will do our best so that we should have a diamond processing facility in Rae in the next few years," Arslanian said.

Tli Cho has three board members each from the Rae Band and Atco Frontec.

Tli Cho President George Mackenzie said although the contract is for the short term, Tli Cho is hoping to work for many years with Diavik.

"This is just a one-year contract, but we are looking forward to a long-term relationship with Diavik," Mackenzie said.

The partnership between the two was a natural, he said.

"We were looking for a company with a good reputation as well as logistical experience in the North," he said.

"We were fortunate that they were interested in being partners with us and so far, it's worked out very good for us both."

President and CEO of Atco Frontec, George Paicu, said the partnership is nothing new to his company.

Paicu said 80 per cent of his company's $125-million annual revenue comes from joint-ventures.

"We've been in the North a long time. We have a lot of arrangements with aboriginal groups throughout the North," he said.

"We can bring some skills and expertise as well as financing and planning -- that's what we do well."