Canada is a big player in the international diamond industry, and ranked amongst its top three producers (in terms of value) in 2007. The plus points of these precious stones are that they are of exceptional quality and 'conflict-free', i.e., they are not being used to finance terror, war, or weapons, as is being done in countries such as Sierra Leone and Angola.
They were first discovered in Canada in the mid 1980s at Point Lake near Lac de Gras in the Northwest Territories. Since then, several mines have opened. The major ones include:
Canada's first diamond mine is the Ekati mine, which is 300 miles northeast of Yellowknife. It opened in 1998 and is primarily owned by the Australian mining conglomerate BHP Billiton, who own an 80% share. The minority share of 20% is owned by Charles Fipke and Stewart Blusson (10% each), who are the geologists who discovered the mines. It has yielded 40 million carats (8,000 kg/17,636 lbs.) out of six open pits, between 1998 and 2008.
The Diavik mine is about 190 miles north of Yellowknife and 100 miles southeast of Ekati. Its construction began in 2001 and it finally opened in 2003. Since then, it has greatly boosted the region's economy and provided large-scale employment opportunities. The mine is jointly owned by the Harry Winston Diamond Corporation and Diavik Diamond Mines Inc., a subsidiary of the Rio Tinto Group. On an average, it produces 8 million carats (1,600 kg) annually.
Another famous mine is called Jericho, and is located at about 400 miles northeast of Yellowknife. It was Nunavut's first diamond mine when it opened in August 2006, and was owned by the Toronto-based Tahera Diamond Corporation. In 2010, the mine was purchased by Shear Diamonds. Estimates place the production capacity at 375,000 carats (75 kg) a year. The mine is accessible only by road via which all equipment is brought in.
The Snap Lake mine is owned by De Beers, and is located in the Northwest Territories, about 220 miles northeast of Yellowknife. The project was completed and made functional in 2008, and is supposed to be the nation's first completely underground mine. It is expected to produce 1.4 million carats annually with an approximate lifespan of 20 years.
Gahcho Kue Project
The Gahcho Kue Project is still in the preparation stages. Construction began in late 2013 and the mine should be in production by end of 2015. It is located at Kennady Lake in the Northwest Territories, and is a joint venture between Mountain Province Diamonds and De Beers Canada. It is expected to produce 4.5 million carats per year over an 11 year lifespan.
The Victor mine is located in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario, approximately 56 miles west of the coastal community of Attawapiskat. The open pit mine is owned by De Beers and it opened in 2008. It is currently producing 600,000 carats per year.
According to estimates, the country will continue to be a diamond supplier to be reckoned with, as Canadian mines are expected to keep producing for the next 15 years. Not only that, mines such as Ekati, Diavik, Jericho, and Snap Lake are producing some of the best diamonds in the world. The future is also likely to see many more such mines dot the territory of Canada.