The Ekati diamond mine’s owners have chosen to heavily reduce their reliance on at least one major contractor, continuing a course change since the Washington group took control.

The Washington Companies acquired Dominion Diamond Mines last year.

Dominion has since cancelled preparations for a major expansion at the mine and, on Wednesday, took steps to cut back relations with at least one contractor.

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Cabin Radio understands the mine will replace contractor-supplied equipment maintenance work with its own staff by the end of this financial year. The switchover will begin in September.

More than 100 workers at construction giant Finning are believed to be affected by Dominion’s decision. Two other contractors told Cabin Radio their business continued as usual, though it is believed at least one more contractor’s commitment to Ekati is being reduced.

Jasper Lamouelle, president and chief executive of the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation, said the group’s activities at Ekati were unaffected. Tłı̨chǫ Logistics, the corporation’s subsidiary, employs more than 250 workers across the three NWT diamond mines according to its website.

Finning’s workforce at the mine is believed to be decreasing from approximately 170 on-site workers to around 40 as a direct result of the change. Finning told workers on Wednesday it will look to retain and relocate them across its business.

The company, which has supplied Ekati for more than 20 years, did not provide comment. Finning International will release its Q2 2018 results and hold an investor call in one week’s time.

Reserved approach

The overall impact on jobs at the mine is not clear. Many, perhaps all workers may be able to simply transfer from the contractor to become direct employees of the mine, fulfilling similar roles – which could serve as a cost-cutting measure for the mine owner.

Dominion, which did not respond to requests for comment, has pursued a more reserved approach to Ekati since the Washington group’s involvement began.

In May, the company declared suspension of work on preparations for the mine’s Jay pipe expansion.

Turning the Jay kimberlite pipe into an open pit was supposed to extend the mine’s life by up to a decade. However, Dominion placed the project on pause to conduct an “optimization study” designed to save money.

Dominion has only just concluded negotiations with the Union of Northern Workers over a new collective bargaining agreement, ratified last month.

That followed the company’s threat to lay off 150 entry-level workers over alleged absenteeism.