Almod Diamond factory processes first batch of diamonds in Yellowknife
Long-awaited manufacturing plant staffed and operational, with grand opening expected in 2020
A long-awaited diamond processing facility is now operational in Yellowknife.
The first shipment of rough diamonds from De Beers have been cut and polished at the Yellowknife Crown of Light facility located near the Yellowknife Airport, parent company Almod Diamond announced Tuesday.
A company spokesperson confirmed that the Yellowknife facility is staffed and operational, with a grand opening expected in 2020.
This is the first facility to cut and polish diamonds mined in the N.W.T. since 2009, when Tiffany and Co.'s Laurelton Diamonds and Arslanian Cutting Works both closed polishing plants on what was known as "diamond row" near the Yellowknife Airport. These two closures cumulatively laid off more than 90 workers.
Ten employees were expected to be initially stationed at the Almod Diamonds Yellowknife facility. The first wave of staff was expected to transfer to Yellowknife from the company's other operations, as it takes up to two years to train workers in diamond cutting and polishing.
Yellowknife Crown of Light facility is the first factory to become operational under the territorial government's amended Diamond Policy Framework, and is the only diamond manufacturer currently approved for operation by the N.W.T. government, according to a spokesperson from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
The Government of the Northwest Territories had approved Deepak International as a diamond manufacturer in January 2013, but pulled that approval in 2016. Deepak International had also purchased an old diamond factory in Yellowknife but ultimately never opened it and its owner Deepak Kumar was charged with fraud.
When Almod Diamonds first purchased the long-closed Tiffany diamond cutting and polishing plant near the Yellowknife airport in December 2016, company president Albert Gad told CBC he expected the facility to open within six months.
In October 2017, a company spokesperson amended that timeline, saying the opening of the polishing factory was delayed due to setbacks obtaining work visas and permits for its employees.
Gad was not immediately available to answer questions following Tuesday's announcement.