The Northwest Territories' three operating diamond mines continue to fly in workers from outside the territory, despite commitments they made in socio-economic agreements to hire northern employees.

DeBeers is doing the worst job of meeting its northern hiring targets. Last year, northerners made up only 36 per cent of the workforce at its Snap Lake mine.

In its socio-economic agreement with the territorial government, DeBeers set a target of 60 per cent northern workers.

About 47 per cent of Diavik diamond mine's workforce is northern.

All three diamond mines agreed not to fly in workers from the South but they have been doing it for years.

The territory's industry minister, David Ramsay, says they have no choice.

"If the companies weren't allowed to fly in workers, those mines wouldn't be in operation today. That's the stark reality that we're living with here."

The only mine close to reaching its northern hiring target is Dominion Diamond's Ekati mine. The company's president, Brendan Bell says about 61 per cent of workers at Ekati are northern.

He says the company recently increased northern benefits packages for managers in an attempt to get more people North.

"So the numbers are improving," Bell said. "We're not satisfied, but we are trying to see if we can make some better progress on this front."

The company has also hired community liaison officials in Lutsel K'e and Kugluktuk to find more workers in those communities.

"This is a way to attract new hires and make sure the management team is stable and located in the Northwest Territories," Bell said.