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Economy

Production restarts at Ekati mine with sale imminent


Production has resumed at the NWT’s Ekati diamond mine, ending a suspension of operations which had lasted since mid-March 2020.

Dominion Diamond Mines, which owns Ekati but is in the process of selling the mine to a group of creditors, said it was now hiring skilled tradespeople and professionals.

“Employees were recalled in a phased approach to ensure alignment of resources with the work required to bring the mine back up to full operations,” a spokesperson told Cabin Radio by email. “

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All recalls are complete and we anticipate all recalled employees back to work by February 25, 2021.”

Ekati shut down 10 months ago as Covid-19 reached the NWT and with Dominion in significant financial difficulty, only worsened by the halt in production.

Dominion subsequently entered creditor protection and spent the bulk of 2020 trying unsuccessfully to offload the mine to another subsidiary of its parent, the Washington group.

When that sale collapsed in the fall over insurance companies’ refusal to back it, Dominion nonetheless pressed ahead with the purchase of 10 million litres of diesel fuel to restart the mine.

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In mid-November, the company said it was recalling 60 of its 400 furloughed mine employees “to prepare for an anticipated restart.”

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the world’s natural diamond market to a halt but, by early December, experts said the market was beginning to recover.

That month not only brought good news for the industry but also for Dominion, which announced it had reached a deal with its creditors to sell the company.

That sale is still to be finalized. It is subject to court approval because Dominion remains in creditor protection, which provided the company with court-ordered protection from its debtors while it worked on a sale.

“We anticipate the sale to close no later than February 1, 2021, subject to obtaining all required regulatory approvals and satisfying other customary closing conditions,” the spokesperson said.

“The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has also extended the current stay of proceedings in favour of Dominion to March 1, 2021 if required.”

A news release in December had outlined Dominion’s Ekati debts will be assumed by the buyers, who will also front a $90-million working capital fund for the mine to resume operations.

Alongside Ekati, Dominion also owns 40 percent of the neighbouring Diavik mine. That interest in Diavik is excluded from the sale, and it remains unclear what will eventually happen to Dominion’s share of that mine.

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