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Diamond plant on hold

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Apr 28/03) - A group of entrepreneurs proposing a diamond processing facility for Fort Simpson will have to wait at least a few years.

The territorial government rejected a funding application for the prospective diamond plant because there aren't enough rough diamonds available through existing NWT mines.

Leo (Yanny) Cordero, a Fort Simpson entrepreneur who is one of the people behind the proposal, took the news in stride. Although he and his associates were hoping to purchase 8,000 carats from Rio Tinto's Diavik mine, they missed out on the deadline to apply. Therefore, Cordero said he will travel to Vancouver in the coming weeks to meet with his partners. They will restructure their business plan for 2005-06 when the next diamond mines -- Tahera's Jericho mine and DeBeer's Snap Lake -- are projected to begin production.

"There's lot of hope," an optimistic Cordero said.

Meanwhile, Fort Simpson Mayor Tom Wilson and a few village councillors, are angry over what they deemed a lack of support for the project from the territorial government. It's expected that the diamond project would create more than 200 jobs in the community, which has a population of 1,200.

"Nobody in Yellowknife seems to care," said Wilson, who added that he doesn't want to wait another few years. "It just seems a shame."

Coun. Duncan Canvin was unhappy with Resources and Economic Development Minister Jim Antoine explanation why the business application was denied.

"This is a horrible, pathetic explanation," said Canvin. "No one even gave these guys a chance" because they want to be based in Fort Simpson.

"I'd like to see somebody's feet in the fire on this one," said Canvin.