Diamond Companies Support Employees as Canadian Wildfires Rage

SourcingAug 22, 2023

Diamond Companies Support Employees as Canadian Wildfires Rage

Rio Tinto, De Beers and Burgundy all have mines in the Northwest Territories, where wildfires have forced mass evacuations.

Wildfires Canada’s Northwest Territories
An aerial view of one of the wildfires currently burning near Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories’ capital city and the largest city near the territory’s three diamond mines, was evacuated late last week. (Photo courtesy of the NWT Fire Facebook page)
Yellowknife, Canada—Diamond miners and manufacturers in Canada are working to aid employees and adjust operations as “unprecedented” wildfires continue to burn across the Northwest Territories, forcing thousands to evacuate.   

Yellowknife, the capital of the territory, has a population of about 20,000 and sits on the northern shore of the Great Slave Lake.

Benjamin King, CEO of Diamonds De Canada, a boutique diamond manufacturing firm in Yellowknife, said in a telephone interview Monday that fire is closing in on the city from the west, east and north.

While wildfires happen every year in the Northwest Territories, this year, weather has exacerbated the spread of the blazes.

“This year has been an incredibly dry season for the north, low humidity,” King explained. “Generally speaking, throughout the summer you get a lot of rain on and off and there hasn’t been that. This has been a trend for the past couple years; it’s been a lot drier in the summer.

“This is the first time I think anybody can remember that Yellowknife has been threatened by a fire.”

Residents were ordered to evacuate late last week and King, who splits his time between Yellowknife and the United States, said they complied, except for those who are aiding in the firefighting efforts.

Diamonds De Canada’s facility is closed, as is mining company Rio Tinto’s office in Yellowknife.

Rio Tinto is the sole owner of the Diavik mine, one of three major diamond mines in the Northwest Territories.

A Rio Tinto spokesperson told National Jeweler via email over the weekend that the office will remain shuttered for the foreseeable future.

The mine, which is located about 186 miles northeast of Yellowknife, is not directly threatened by the fire.

Operations are able to continue safely, albeit at a reduced capacity as Rio Tinto works to support and give flexibility to employees who have been evacuated or need to be near their homes or with their families. 

The company added, “Rio Tinto has reached out to the government of the Northwest Territories and the City of Yellowknife to offer assistance and is in discussions about the best way we can assist in terms of supplies, equipment or personnel.”

De Beers, which operates the Gahcho Kué mine in partnership with Mountain Province Diamonds, said in a statement last week that while the mine is not directly threatened, the Northwest Territories is home to more than 200 De Beers employees.

Many of them live in communities impacted by the fire; about 30 percent of Gahcho Kué’s workers reside in Yellowknife.

Like Rio Tinto, De Beers said it is working with employees who’ve been affected by evacuations to allow them to be with their families.

It has evacuated employees from its Yellowknife office while operations at Gahcho Kué and ongoing closure activities at De Beers’ inactive mine in the territory, Snap Lake, continue.

The company also said it has donated a total of $70,000 to the United Way NWT Emergency Response Fund to support wildlife relief and is considering how else it can help residents of the area. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been forced from their homes and who have lost their homes and businesses during this unprecedented wildfire season,” said Erik Madsen, the corporate affairs lead for De Beers Group Managed Operations (Canada).

“We are also working closely with our more than 40 Gahcho Kué colleagues who have evacuated from Hay River, Fort Smith, Enterprise, and Jean Marie River.”

Burgundy Diamond Mines Ltd., which recently completed its purchase of the Ekati mine, also said while the mine is not currently threatened by the fires, it is aiding impacted employees. 

In a statement issued Monday, the company said several Burgundy employees who live in Yellowknife have relocated to cities in Alberta, while a couple of Ekati workers who have specialized emergency response skills are volunteering to help fight the fires. 

A majority of the Burgundy workforce flies into the mine from Calgary, Alberta, working a two-week shift then taking two weeks off.

To help those who used Yellowknife as a fly-in point but have had to evacuate, the company said it is allowing for flexible work arrangements and adding additional flights from Edmonton via Calgary that then go on to Ekati.

“Burgundy Diamond Mines remains committed to supporting its people who have been affected by the wildfires and will continue to monitor and provide updates on the wildfire situation,” the company said.

“We will continue to work with the government of the Northwest Territories to assist with wildfire response efforts and supporting those team members who live in evacuated regions.”

As of Monday afternoon, NWT Fire, the informational Facebook page maintained by the government of the Northwest Territories, said the Behchoko/Yellowknife Fire was about 15 km (9 miles) northwest of Yellowknife but was “highly unlikely” to reach the city’s outskirts in the next three days because it has been held at bay thanks to aerial support and rain. 

King said it is unknown at this point when people will be allowed to return to Yellowknife. It could be two to three weeks as the government of the Northwest Territories tends to be cautious, particularly since there is only one highway in and out of the city. 

He said Diamonds De Canada will resume filling orders as soon as it is able to reopen but customers should expect some delays. 

In the meantime, he wants the industry to know about the strength and resilience of the people of the Northwest Territories. 

“By nature, being from the North, you’re about as tough as a diamond,” King said. “Despite all the changes the world has thrown at us with climate, the one thing to know about the [people of the] north is, they adapt and they overcome all these difficulties.”

The Latest

Graphic for My Next Question episode on lab-grown diamonds
Recorded WebinarsSep 29, 2023
The Lab-Grown Diamond Market: Where Are We Now?

Watch as Edahn Golan, Sherry Smith and Avi Levy join Michelle Graff to talk pricing and trends in this controversial corner of the market.

Sonya K. Taylor diamond tennis necklace with tourmaline drop
CollectionsSep 29, 2023
Piece of the Week: Sonya K’s Versatile Necklace

A classic diamond tennis necklace gets a whole lot cooler with a removable pendant.

Columbia Gem House Woz Cuts
EditorsSep 28, 2023
The Gemstone World Is In Its Unique Cut Era

Associate Editor Lauren McLemore recently spoke with Columbia Gem House’s Eric Braunwart about the uptick in non-traditional gemstone cuts.

Brought to you by
Top 5 Ways to Promote Safety and Security Awareness Among Your Staff

Awareness is essential to proactive protection. Learn how to promote and maintain safety and security awareness in your business.

Pre-Owned Luxury by Rocksbox logo
MajorsSep 28, 2023
Signet-Owned Rocksbox Now Sells Pre-Owned Fine Jewelry

“Pre-Owned Luxury by Rocksbox” offers secondhand jewelry from Kay, Zales, and Jared to members and non-members.

Weekly QuizSep 29, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
Gold Roman Bracelet from the British Museum
CrimeSep 28, 2023
Have You Seen Jewels Like These? The British Museum Wants to Know

The museum is asking for the public’s help in finding thousands of pieces of ancient gold jewelry and gemstones stolen from a storeroom.

Pam Waclawski The Kingswood Company
MajorsSep 28, 2023
The Kingswood Co. Names New VP, Wins Award

The company was recognized for one of its private-label, consumer-focused jewelry care lines.

Dialog Solutions
Brought to you by
A Conversation with Dialog Solutions

Do you always want the right diamonds at the right price in your store? Introducing Dialog, the world’s first diamond subscription service.

Chaumet diamond necklace, circa 1900
AuctionsSep 27, 2023
Antique Jewels Shine at Bonhams London

A rare Chaumet necklace and 20th-century sapphire ring sold for double their estimates.

Hands pushing a shopping cart
SurveysSep 27, 2023
Consumer Confidence Falls in September Amid Rising Recession Fears

Shoppers also expressed concern about rising prices, higher interest rates, and political uncertainty.

   Platinum Guild International logo
Events & AwardsSep 27, 2023
PGI to Dole Out $500K in Business Grant Program

Participants from the first round of grants saw up to a 900 percent increase in their platinum sales.

Citizen Tsuki-yomi A-T moon phase watch
WatchesSep 26, 2023
Citizen Launches the Tsuki-Yomi A-T Timepiece

According to the watchmaker, it features the first light-powered atomic timekeeping moon phase movement.

Sally Nelson Exclusively Diamonds
IndependentsSep 26, 2023
Sally Nelson, Founder of Exclusively Diamonds, Dies at 86

The former teacher, described as “a pioneer for women-owned businesses,” opened her own jewelry store in 1980.

Crescendo, a 147.96-carat golden citrine by John Dyer for Somewhere In The Rainbow
Events & AwardsSep 26, 2023
2023 Spectrum Awards Entry Deadline Extended

The contest is now open for submissions until Oct. 10.

Instore show logo
Events & AwardsSep 26, 2023
Instore Announces Dates for 2024 Show

The annual event will return to Rosemont, Illinois next August.

Gold holiday gift boxes
SurveysSep 26, 2023
Mastercard Makes Its 2023 Holiday Prediction

According to SpendingPulse, retail sales will increase in November and December but not necessarily for jewelers.

Stock image of hands in handcuffs
CrimeSep 25, 2023
Oregon Jeweler Accused of Selling Lab-Grown Diamonds as Natural

Police say Douglas Wayne Gamble also swapped natural diamonds for synthetic stones and failed to return customers’ repairs.

Neil Lane lab-grown diamond engagement rings for Kay Jewelers
CollectionsSep 25, 2023
Neil Lane’s Latest Collection Uses Lab-Grown Diamonds

The designer just launched a new bridal range at Kay Jewelers.

Yunjo Lee
MajorsSep 25, 2023
Hearts On Fire Taps Mejuri Exec as CCO

Yunjo Lee has also worked on collections for Tiffany & Co. with Paloma Picasso and Frank Gehry.

Steve Levine of Sylvie Jewelry
MajorsSep 25, 2023
Second Generation Takes On New Roles at Sylvie Jewelry

Steve Levine joins the family-owned company, while his brother Gary has a new position.

David Yurman Paris flagship
MajorsSep 22, 2023
David Yurman Alleges These Two Companies Copied Its Designs

The company has filed complaints against Royal Chain and Samuel B.

Yun Yun Sun toi et moi diamond Puzzle ring
TrendsSep 22, 2023
Piece of the Week: Yun Yun Sun’s ‘Puzzle’ Ring

The two-stone style benefits from two-toned metal.

Mineral display at HardRock Summit 2023
Events & AwardsSep 22, 2023
HardRock Summit To Relocate In 2024

The event is moving just outside of Denver.

Timex ReWound video screenshot
WatchesSep 21, 2023
Timex Wants Your Old Watch

The company just rolled out “Timex Rewound,” a new takeback and resale program.

GIA logo
GradingSep 21, 2023
Retailers Warned About Fraudulent Email Purportedly From GIA

The lab confirmed it did not send the message.

Reginald Brack
AuctionsSep 21, 2023
Hindman Appoints New SVP, Director of Jewelry and Watches

Reginald Brack has worked at StockX and Christie’s.

Natural Diamond Council brand ambassador Lily James
SourcingSep 21, 2023
Natural Diamond Council’s Latest Campaign With Lily James Is Here

The second installment of “To Treasure Now and Forever” is intended to emphasize diamonds’ versatility.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy

Additionally, paste this code immediately after the opening  tag: