Patrick Evans, the chief executive of Dominion Diamond Mines, has left the company.
Evans’ departure was first reported by Bloomberg on Monday and later confirmed by the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.
While the Toronto Star, in a report, said Evans was joining an “executive exodus” at the mining company, the Chamber of Mines said it was “not alarmed” at his departure.
Dominion owns and operates the Ekati diamond mine and holds a 40 percent stake in the neighbouring Diavik mine. The company was taken over by the Washington group last year in a deal reported to be worth around $1.5 billion.
Since then, Bloomberg reported, executives including chief financial officer Matthew Quinlan, chief operating officer Chantal Lavoie, Cara Allaway, and Elliot Holland have all left Dominion.
However, Gary Vivian – president of the Chamber of Mines – characterized the departures not as an exodus, but an example of a plan fulfilled.
“I knew that when he first took the job, he wasn’t there for a long time,” said Vivian of Evans, who was appointed to the post just over a year ago.
“He was hired for specific reasons. I sort-of knew that he wasn’t going to be a five-year guy.”
Evans’ LinkedIn profile now lists him as an advisor to Dominion Diamond. Bloomberg said Evans had, in a short phone call, suggested he would remain in that role until the end of 2019.
Earlier this year, a former senior manager at the Ekati mine told Cabin Radio the Washington group had tasked senior executives with closely examining the number of people working at the site.
Ekati has long employed many more people than Diavik, and more than double the workforce of the more recently opened Gahcho Kué mine – but figures suggest Ekati’s rough diamond production is not commensurately higher.
“Essentially, Washington took over the Ekati mine with the thought of trying to make it leaner and meaner,” said Vivian on Monday.
“There were people hired to do specific jobs and that’s basically it,” he continued, adding he believed Evans had been brought in to “turn the ship around and make sure that exploration was a priority.”
That shift toward exploration was made plain in May, when Dominion Diamond halted preparatory work for its Jay pipe expansion. Observers said the pipe appeared to be no longer viable.
At the time, the company said focus would instead fall on a “significant exploration program to identify incremental high-value kimberlite.”
“They are looking at some alternative mining methods, and I don’t think that’s a secret,” said Vivian.
“They are reviewing some of the potential that people know exists, that might be questionable right now but could become a viable resource using alternative methods.”
Meanwhile, several residents of the NWT have reported recent layoffs at the Ekati site to Cabin Radio.
Dominion Diamond did not respond to a request last week for clarity regarding those reported layoffs.
According to two sources with direct knowledge of the mine’s operations, the layoffs are a consequence of Dominion’s earlier decision to reduce its reliance on contractors.
The mine is replacing contractor-supplied equipment maintenance work with its own staff – a move previously reported to affect more than 100 workers at Finning.
Cabin Radio understands Finning employees could choose to be retained and relocated, or instead accept a severance package and seek work directly with Dominion Diamond on the mine’s own staff.
Though precise figures are not yet available, it is believed Ekati is now being operated using a significantly smaller total workforce than that with which it began the year.