Dominion Diamond Mines said on Friday it would recall around 60 of its 400 furloughed Ekati diamond mine employees “to prepare for an anticipated restart.”
Operations at the NWT’s Ekati mine have been suspended since mid-March. The mine shut down on health and safety grounds as Covid-19 hit, but owner Dominion subsequently entered creditor protection amid a mounting financial crisis.
Dominion’s attempt to sell the mine to another subsidiary of its parent company, the Washington group, fell through in early October.
Now, a group of Dominion’s creditors is said to be close to reaching an agreement that would restructure the company’s debt and provide new funding – allowing work at Ekati to resume.
“In anticipation of the parties reaching such an agreement, Dominion has determined to recall these employees given necessary lead times required to mobilize the workforce while adequately complying with Covid-19 isolation protocols,” read a statement issued by Dominion on Friday.
The employees are expected to resume work in early December.
Dominion will remain in creditor protection until at least December 15. Creditor protection allows the company to pause some of its debt repayments and other financial obligations while it restructures and finds new financial backing.
The company said it would “take necessary precautions” to keep Ekati workers safe as they return to the mine.
The territory’s two other active diamond mines, Gahcho Kué and Diavik, each reported new cases of Covid-19 this week.
Time is running out to put necessary preparations in place for Ekati’s reopening in early 2021.
Fuel, goods, and drivers all need to be acquired for the spring 2021 ice road season, which means the mine needs clarity on its future before that season comes to pass.
The decision to recall dozens of workers from furlough implies Dominion is confident that clarity will emerge in the coming days.