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Dream of Ontario diamond industry 'never really took off' says NDP MPP

It's still unclear how the closing of the DeBeers mine near Attawapiskat will affect a diamond polishing operation in downtown Sudbury. There are also questions about whether requiring the company to process 10 per cent of its diamonds in the province had much of an impact.

Polishing operation had 45 employees at point, most brought in from Vietnam.

Rough diamonds from the Victor Mine near Attawapiskat, which DeBeers announced is set to shut down in early 2019. (DeBeers)

It's still unclear how the closure of the DeBeers mine near Attawapiskat will affect a diamond polishing operation in downtown Sudbury.

There are also questions about whether requiring the company to process 10 per cent of its diamonds in the province had much of an impact.

"DeBeers and Crossworks and the Ontario government working together have created a real success story here," Premier Kathleen Wynne said in 2013, when touring Crossworks Manufacturing in Sudbury.

The secret location was a popular stop for politicians, showing off the new value-added industry and talking about big plans for college programs to train polishers.

There were also hopes that the first few dozen workers brought in from Vietnam would give way to locals.

But they don't appear to have panned out.

Calls to Crossworks Manufacturing were not returned.

Nickel Belt New Democrat MPP France Gelinas says an opportunity to start a new industry in the north was missed.

"A fraction of what could have been possible," she says.

"Was so well positioned to add in other areas of knowledge and skills and it never really took off."

Premier Kathleen Wynne tours the Crossworks diamond polishing operation in downtown Sudbury in 2013. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Northern Development and Mines Minster Michael Gravelle was eager to speak to reporters when the polishing plant opened in 2009.

"We're excited to have a value-added industry come into the province of Ontario, but we have every expectation that it will be here for a very long time," he said when the new plant was announced.

But he wasn't made available for an interview for this story. 

In a statement, Gravelle said that he's happy to hear that the remaining diamonds from Victor Mine will be processed in Sudbury until the mine closes in early 2019.

"We are pleased that  Crossworks Manufacturing – a diamond polishing and cutting firm that has been a committed participant in the Sudbury business community – will continue to cut and polish the outstanding production that remains," the statement reads. 

"We will continue to work with Attawapiskat and affected communities on identifying and supporting economic development opportunities."

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury, Ont. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca