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The factory pictured, an Archibald Street diamond-cutting plant on Diamond Row, as well as the factory in the background, are owned by the GNWT, which has started an online campaign to find new operators. - Thandie Vela/NNSL photo

GNWT starts campaign to sell diamond plants
Factories advertised on government's new secondary diamond industry promotional website

Thandie Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The GNWT has started a web-based campaign to find new operators for its two diamond plants on Diamond Row.

Arslanian Cutting Works and Polar Ice cutting and polishing factories were wrestled from the liquidated assets of Polar Ice Diamonds - the former owner of both facilities - after the company went into receivership last fall while still owing more than $42 million to creditors, including $5.8 million to the territorial government.

"Those factories are owned by the GNWT so we're interested in gaining value for the people of the Northwest Territories through the sale of those facilities," said Pietro de Bastiani, associate director of the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment's mineral oil and gas division.

The process is part of a broader campaign to draw interest in the territory's secondary diamond industry.

"The secondary diamond industry plays an important role in diversifying and developing the economy of the Northwest Territories," ITI Minister Bob McLeod told Yellowknifer at the announcing of the planned Crossworks diamond tourist centre in August. "Today our territory is known as more than a diamond producer; we are a manufacturer as well."

The campaign is being managed in a web-based environment, de Bastiani said, with the diamond factories' website launched earlier this month. The website went live the same day a request for qualification to establish a diamond manufacturing facility in the Northwest Territories was issued and advertised in "strategic places around the globe," de Bastiani said.

"We believe there is still a tremendous opportunity in this industry, so this is one means of testing the marketplace and drawing attention to this opportunity," he said.

Photos of the two Diamond Row properties on Archibald Street, land which is available for purchase along with the equipment are posted on the website. de Bastiani declined to release the value of the properties, so as "not to prejudice the bidding value.

"The value is the best offer the market will provide," he said.

The request for qualifications is not limited to parties interested in bidding on the properties, but to any party interested in establishing a secondary diamond project in the territory, de Bastiani said, adding he is not sure how many parties have registered online, but "there is indeed interest."

The request for qualification is part of a two-phased process, which will be followed by an invitation to qualifying parties to the request for proposals process in October.

"We are hopeful and optimistic that come October, we'll have some expressions of interest and we will move on to phase two," de Bastiani said. The process is targeted to be complete by November.

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