280 KM northeast of Yellowknife lies De Beers’ most recent mining project, Gahcho Kue. The company’s third diamond mine in Canada occupies 1,200 hectares for its’ three different pits.
The mine overall employs nearly 630 people, 27% of which are residents of the Northwest Territories. Among these employees includes 71 Aboriginals, making up almost 15% of the work force.
The General Manager of this site Allan Rodel said that hiring Northerners has been a priority for the company, and the amount of Northern and Indigenous employees has been on the rise. It is sometimes made difficult because some positions are highly skilled, but they attempt to hire and train these employees as it is their expectation that Northern employees will stay North. De Beers has also put in an effort to make its’ facilities more comfortable for different cultures, specifically Indigenous. De Beers’ invites elders for visits and consultations, and provides a cultural room for the employees.
In it’s first year of operation, mining personnel saw some loss of production due to the harsh conditions of winter. Ore Processing Manager Serge Benoit said that many changes were made to “winterize” Gahcho Kue during the first winter to counter the effects. This summer, even more additions were pushed through to make sure Gahcho Kue is as prepared as can be for the cold weather including reinforced metals on equipment.
In it’s early stages, the mine has exceeded expectations in terms of budget, but Rodel said although it’s reason to be optimistic, it’s too early to tell if that will be the norm. The mine also seems to be tracking well against its’ environmental goals early on.