Hundreds of jobs coming
GNWT releases socio-economic agreement on Diavik

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 22/99) - Hundreds of jobs for Northerners are on their way with the Diavik diamond mine, according to the territorial government.

The government has released its Diavik socio-economic agreement and the key percentages translate into a high number of jobs for Northerners and hundreds of millions of dollars in spending with Northern businesses.

"We said early on this is a Northern operation," Doug Willy, Diavik Diamond Mines' vice-president of community and government affairs, said.

Diavik Diamond Mines, a Rio Tinto subsidiary, is the Diavik project manager.

On the agreement in general, Willy said, "There's a lot of good stuff in there, but we all know nothing comes easy."

The agreement comes out soon after the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board listed five Diavik project areas that it felt needed work. The board said if these areas are not addressed, the project should undergo further environmental review.

On Monday, the NWT and Yellowknife chambers of commerce and the NWT Construction Association called on Environment Minister David Anderson to approve the project. The three groups plan to raise $45,000 from members to buy a full-page ad in the Globe and Mail. The ad would state their position and urge Anderson to move the project forward.

If the $1.3-billion project, owned by Rio Tinto and Aber Resources, successfully gets through all the hoops, it will initially mean 270 construction jobs for Northerners.

These 270 people will be part of a 675-person workforce hired to build the proposed diamond mine at Lac de Gras.

Once operational, at least two-thirds of Diavik's workforce will be Northern. Unlike the BHP socio-economic agreement, there is no aboriginal requirement during construction.

While in production, Diavik mine will employ about 265 Northerners full time for at least 16 years. The project description calls for a mine plan which could run 22 years. An operating Diavik will employ between 350 and 450 people.

"It is the aspiration of Diavik Diamond Mines that, over time the project workforce will approach 100 per cent Northerners," according to the agreement.

For the purposes of the socio-economic agreement, a Northerner is defined as a resident of the NWT or the West Kitikmeot region (Kugluktuk, Umingmaktok, Bathurst Inlet).

During operation, at least 40 per cent of workers will be aboriginal. That means two out of every five Diavik employees will be aboriginal.

Some of Diavik's employees will apprentice. While in commercial production, Diavik will employ and provide training for between eight and 18 apprentices.

Another key area in the agreement is spending.

Diavik estimates it will cost $1.3 billion to build the mine.

Under the agreement, Diavik is required to spend at least 38 per cent of costs during construction spending with Northern companies.

In the agreement, a "Northern business" is defined as operating in the NWT or the West Kitikmeot region.

Once operational, Diavik will spend 70 per cent of the cost of goods and services with Northern business.

Another part of the agreement is an advisory board.

Willy said the board is not just about policing the numbers, it's about taking part.

The board was set up to provide input and help "make this work," Willy said.