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Yellowknife gets shaft on diamond exchange

Lauren McKeon
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Canada recently launched its very own diamond bourse - a wholesale, rough and polished diamond exchange - and it's not in the diamond capital of North America.

The Diamond Bourse of Canada, as it's officially dubbed, was launched in Toronto last Tuesday and will join 28 other recognized diamond bourses around the world, in places like Antwerp and London.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Employee Thanh Luu works on a diamond at Yellowknife cutting and polishing plant Crossworks Manufacturing. With the opening of a new diamond bourse in Canada, diamonds at Crossworks could be mined, cut, polished and now traded in Canada. - NNSL file photo

A Toronto-based bourse for Canada made the most sense for the diamond industry according to a feasibility study, which included a survey and city hall meetings held in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, said Colleen Peyer, membership co-ordinator for the new bourse.

"Everyone who was asked - no matter where they were asked - it seemed that they wanted to have it in Toronto because it's more central," said Peyer.

"Basically what they're looking at is the future down the road," she added. "We want to bring people in from outside the country and if people are coming into Toronto, what are the chances of them travelling up to Yellowknife? Not so much."

Naturally, said Peyer, everybody wants the bourse in their own backyard, but Toronto was the best, central location. Plus, the majority of the bourse's founders are headquartered in Toronto - with one in Vancouver.

The bourse's location, however, doesn't mean the diamond industry in Yellowknife and the rest of Canada won't benefit, said Peyer.

"(We) are creating Canada's own clearing house. We're bringing our stones back to Canada and creating a market where they can be bought and sold on Canadian soil. That benefits everybody," she said.

"There was a hole in the diamond pipeline in Canada," Peyer added.

Canada had a growing number of diamond mines, a thriving polishing business, a good cutting industry - but no market for diamonds to be bought and sold, she explained.

"By putting this market in place you complete that pipeline. From beginning to end, from the diamonds coming out of the ground to them being sold to the public. It all happens on Canadian soil," she said.

Peyer said the Canadian bourse has already received letters from fellow bourses in Antwerp, and others around the world, congratulating it on its move.

But at least one Yellowknife MLA believes Yellowknife could have been getting all the new attention - and isn't so sure a faraway bourse will help the city's economy.

"I think we just completely missed the boat on this and it's our own fault," said Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay, who had been pushing for the government to consider a diamond bourse in Yellowknife since last fall.

"I'm disappointed. I don't believe our government has done everything they can to put our best foot forward to get a diamond exchange, or a bourse, located here in the Northwest Territories - in Yellowknife specifically," he added.

Ramsay said he believes Yellowknife would have been a good choice because of its connections and because, unlike Toronto, it needs the economic activity and diversity. The bourse "benefits the diamond mining in Canada, yes. Does it benefit the GNWT? No. Does it benefit our local economy? No," he said.