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Close to a deal

Stephan Burnett
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 24/04) - De Beers is very close to closing a deal on the supply of rough diamonds to local cutters and polishers.

The announcement came as John McConnell, vice president Northwest Territories for De Beers, made a presentation at a City Hall boardroom on Monday morning.

The question on rough diamonds was put forward by Coun. Doug Witty.

"I haven't heard much lately about the issue surrounding supplying rough diamonds to local cutters and polishers. What's De Beers' position on that?" asked Witty.

McConnell responded that the company is committed to providing Snap Lake rough diamonds to local cutters and polishers.

"Those negotiations are confidential, but I can say I believe we are close to an agreement," said McConnell.

So far in 2004, De Beers has awarded $40 million in contracts, 90 per cent of which went to Northern and aboriginal businesses, said McConnell.

De Beers has committed to the development of a charitable fund called the De Beers Canada fund. The communities that will benefit from the fund include: Lutsel'Ke, Rae-Edzo, Wekweti, Wha Ti, Gameti, Ndilo, Dettah and Yellowknife.

"In our proposal, a percentage of operations cash flow would be put into the fund to be managed by a separate and independent (board)," said McConnell. The company plans to take one per cent of its net annual after-tax cash flow from Canadian operations and put it into the fund.

De Beers is also gearing up to be more active towards Yellowknife charities, said De Beers manager of public and corporate affairs Cathy Bolstad.

The company would like to assist the arts and culture scene in Yellowknife, as well as help out youth and sports organizations, said Bolstad.

"We envision building and getting bigger and better as we get into production," she said.

Snap Lake project

The Snap Lake diamond mine, located roughly 200 km north of Yellowknife, will have a small environmental footprint.

"One hundred per cent of the mine will be underground with a footprint as small as possible," said McConnell. The exact size of the footprint is 550 hectares.

In comparison, the outline of Yellowknife is 13,000 hectares. Snap Lake's life span has been reported to be 20 years, but many experts within the company believe there's a high likelihood it will extend to 30 or 40 years, said McConnell.

The company has also committed to developing socio-economic impact benefit agreements with affected communities in the NWT.