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Rehires start after Ekati blaze
Temporary layoffs following June 23 fire added up to 330

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Friday, September 9, 2016

Dominion Diamond Corporation began a progressive rehiring of employees laid off in July, starting Sept. 6.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dominion Diamond Corporation has begun a progressive rehiring of the approximately 330 employees laid off after a fire at the Ekati Mine on June 23. - NNSL file photo

About 330 people, both permanent and part time as well as contractors, lost their jobs after a fire on June 23 at the mine's processing plant. However, the company could not confirm if all those employees would be rehired. Processing at the plant will restart around Sept. 21.

Repairs cost an estimated $15 million. With earnings and cash flow negatively effected during the shut down and stock prices sliding to just $11.31 after the fire, Dominion Diamond stated in a news release at the time that the temporary layoffs were an effort to reduce operating and capital costs during the three months it would take to make repairs.

On Sept. 7, Dominion Diamond stock was still hovering around $11.27, and in the company's second quarter results released yesterday, the company reported it had expensed $22 million in mine standby costs as a result of the fire. Dominion Diamond also reported a loss, before income taxes, of USD $73.8 million between February and July.

Despite that, CEO Brendan Bell is positive about the developments at Ekati.

"Dominion Diamond Corporation is pleased to report that the repairs to the process plant following the fire that occurred on June 23 are proceeding well, and the company continues to expect that processing in the plant can resume by the end of September 2016," stated Dominion Diamond Corporation CEO Brendan Bell in an e-mail.

The fire occurred during scheduled downtime in production at the plant. Workers were removing a screen used in ore processing that required welding work when rubber liners and plastic materials caught fire, according to a statement from the company after the fire. Updates to the investigation into the cause of the fire were unavailable at press time.

Before the fire, approximately 800 people were employed at Ekati, about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. Five hundred of those were members of the Union of Northern Workers.

After the fire, six employees were also relocated from the sorting and valuation facility in Yellowknife to the Dominion Diamond sorting facility in Toronto, in an effort to further reduce costs after the fire.

Dominion Diamond could not confirm if all 330 people would be rehired by press time, however Bell did state in an e-mail to Yellowknifer that "most of the workforce" is expected to be back to work by the end of September.

Approximately 40 per cent of the territory's economy is linked to mining, either directly or indirectly. NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines executive director Tom Hoefer said this means the layoffs - and subsequent rehiring - has a greater impact than just on the workers themselves.

"The unfortunate thing is that the fire caused them to lay-off, and they reported it was up to 330 people. Well that's a hit. That's a hit for those 330 people, it's also a hit for the NWT economy because if they're residents here we're going feel that as well," said Hoefer.

"So for them to be rehiring, our hope would be that they just turn the clock back to the way it was, and fill all those same positions with the same people. But you know, people will have gone on to find other jobs."

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