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NNSL Photo/graphic

Off for the inaugural 737 flight to Snap Lake, Monday, are, from left: John McConnell, De Beers Canada vice president (NWT), First Air Captain Gord Chenkie and First Officer Peter Berthelsen. - photo courtesy of De Beers Canada Inc.

Snap avoids labour crunch

Sydney Selvon
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 21/05) - The construction industry can be quite cut-throat when it comes to labour, but so far that hasn't hurt work on De Beers' Snap Lake mine.

It will be increasingly difficult to hire workers, said Cory Vanthuyne, a project manager at Adco North, one of the main contractors working at Snap Lake.

That said, he doesn't think the mine's progress towards a 2007 start date for production has suffered to date.

Adco North is currently installing a temporary fuel farm, a permanent sewage treatment plant, power and lighting structures and a range of pipe installations.

"Yellowknife considers itself to be in competition with Fort McMurray, Alta.," he said. "There's $140 billion worth of projects in all of Alberta and the NWT during the coming five to 10 years, which means more challenge to find adequate and competent work force."

In the spring the labour needs at the Snap Lake site are set to almost double with two shifts totalling 600 construction workers, up from the current 350.

"We're always battling here, fighting with each other for qualified workers," he said. "I don't think that as of right now, manpower has caused too big a hindrance to the big picture."

For its part, De Beers Canada agrees with Vanthuyne's assessment.

"At this stage, we have no labour shortage problem," said Cathie Bolstad, De Beers' NWT manager of public and corporate affairs.

One of the only things standing in the way of more workers is the size of the facility at the site, she said.

"Additional camp modules arriving by road this winter will allow the addition of 350 new beds to house the significant increase in workers needed for the 2006 construction season."

Construction companies aren't the only ones benefiting from the construction of the NWT's third diamond mine.

First Air has been contracted to provide the first three 737 flights to the mine's recently upgraded runway this week, said Mike Olson, the airline's director of sales for the western region.

First Air has bid on the contract for twice-weekly flights to Snap Lake. Winning company is to be announced as soon as this week.

"We have been chartered to do the first three inaugural flights," he said. "We definitely have all the crews and the aircraft needed to operate those flights as well as those required by the contract."