Griffiths "promoting Canada"
But Montreal makes sense, adds industry consultant

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jan 30/98) - Montreal makes sense as a Canadian diamond centre, Ann Griffiths claims.

Griffiths, who runs the Montreal-based resources consulting company Diamonclas Ressources, was promoting Montreal during last week's opening of the Vancouver office for De Beers, the leading international diamond producer and marketer.

Yellowknife's diamond industry development task force members were also at the De Beers opening and we surprised by the discovery of competition.

Griffiths said she wants to make sure Canada gets as much as it can out of the emerging diamond industry, and that means secondary industry beyond federal royalties.

"I'm trying to get it done in Canada. I've seen what the diamond business can do for a country. These are Canadian diamonds," she said.

Montreal just happens to be well-suited as a base for the emerging diamond industry, she said.

Griffiths believes Montreal has better facilities than Yellowknife when it comes to serving the international marketplace.

But the GNWT's director of diamond projects, Martin Irving, said Wednesday that he has found at least two existing diamond-cutting operations in North America, one in Victoria and one in Bismark, N.D.

"These debunk the myth that diamonds can't be cut in North America," Irving said.

He estimated the world diamond market at about $50 billion.

According to Griffiths, New York diamond buyers have responded positively to suggestions that Montreal could be the Canadian diamond centre. New York is one of the largest diamond markets in the world.

"I've said to Martin Irving, if you could get (a diamond centre) there that would be great, but if you can't, let's get it somewhere else in Canada."

She believes after the required minimal sorting and evaluating in the North -- BHP has said it plans only some sorting and evaluating, which will employ 10 to 15 people, at its Ekati mine -- the rest could go to Antwerp.

As for Griffiths' appearance at the De Beers opening wearing a Natural Resources Canada name tag, she said it was just a misunderstanding.

She said Michel Boucher of the Department of Natural Resources asked her to go because she "is involved with trying to bring the diamond industry to Canada."

She said she was already in Vancouver.

De Beers approved the change but did not replace "Natural Resources Canada" on the name tag with her own company's name, she said.

"I always go under my own name," Griffiths said.