The value of annual diamond exports from the Northwest Territories has more than tripled since its first year of productionin 1999, Statistics Canada said Monday.

Exports of the precious stones from the NWT were worth more than $1.7 billion in 2005, almost twice the value exported in 2002 and three times the value exported in 1999. Sinceproduction began, the value of exports has risen at an annual average rate of 29 per cent.

Companies mining diamonds in the territory exported 12 million carats in 2005, compared with five million carats in 2002 and only about two million carats in 1999.

Canada No. 3 in world

The main destinations for Canada's diamonds are the United Kingdom and Belgium. More than 90 per cent of the value of its diamond exports has gone to these two countries every year since 1999.

In terms of the value of diamonds produced, Canada ranked third in the world in 2004, trailing Botswana and Russia. Canada's volume of production placed it sixth in the world.

The growth of the diamond industry has meant a significant boost for the economy of theN.W.T.

Between1999and2004, per capita gross domestic product in the Northwest Territories rose at an annual average rate of almost13 per cent.

"This was nearly three times the increase of4.2 per centreported in the rest of Canada," Statistics Canada said.