Exploration spending in Canada’s diamond-rich Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) is expected to drop by 54 per cent this year, estimates the Canadian government. Analysts blame a decline in diamond prices due to less demand in China’s jewellery industry.
Canada’s arctic region is the world’s third-biggest producer of diamonds after Botswana and Russia. The tough arctic climate has made development of diamond mines costly, as has the lack of infrastructure. Some mining companies complain that getting permits takes longer in the Northwest Territories than elsewhere and there is some uncertainly due to unsettled aboriginal land claims.
In spite of the challenges, Canada’s production of arctic diamonds has boomed since the first mine opened in 1998. The sector contributes 18 per cent to the N.W.T.’s gross domestic product and creates thousands of jobs. It can take 10 to 20 years to develop a mine.
Several mines are in operation and De Beers is building N.W.T.’s fourth mine. But companies have no other new mines planned.