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A shining example

Cambridge Bay man off to South Africa for diamond training

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Cambridge Bay (Jan 29/01) - Douglas Mohammed used to protect the shiny rocks unearthed at the Ekati Diamond Mine.

Now, the 22-year-old from Cambridge Bay is off to South Africa for a six-week stint to learn how to shine and put a price tag on the expensive gems.

"A year ago today, I was unemployed. I didn't have very many prospects. I was down in the gutter," said Mohammed last week.

An offer to take a 16-week security officer's course -- paid for by the Kitikmeot Economic Training Partners -- turned his life around. He completed the course and while employed as a security guard at Ekati, he received a second call from KETP offering him an even greater opportunity.

Mohammed said he leapt at the chance to study the art of diamond polishing, grading and valuation at De Beers' prestigious Oppenheimer House in Johannesburg.

"It opens up a whole lot of doors that aren't open to me now.

"It sounds like a really exciting job. Not too many people get to cut, polish and put a dollar value on diamonds," he said.

Because DICAN (Diamonds International Canada) footed the bill for the course, Mohammed is obligated to work for them when he returns to Canada. Fifty-one per cent owned by three Northern aboriginal groups, one of which is the Kitikmeot Corporation, DICAN holds the contract with the federal government to evaluate Ekati diamonds. The organization has a mandate, as does KETP, to get train young aboriginal residents for jobs in the diamond industry.

Mohammed said he planned to submit his resume to the cutting and polishing facilities in Yellowknife once he completes the course.

He also said he hoped to be able to speak to Inuit youth upon his return in an effort to encourage and illustrate to his peers the opportunities that exist.

"One of my brothers committed suicide not too long ago. It was quite sad. He was my age. If he'd been offered a position like this, I'm sure he wouldn't have done that."

Mohammed, the first Inuk to be offered the training, left for South Africa last week.