Canada

Ontario diamonds rely on foreign polishers

The first diamonds cut and polished in Ontario are on sale in Toronto, but it may be years before local residents can replace foreign workers in performing the precision work.

The first Ontario diamonds cut and polished in the province went on sale on Monday in Toronto, but it may be years before local residents can replace foreign workers in performing the precision work.

Crossworks Manufacturing Ltd. has been operating its processing plant in Sudbury, Ont., since August and has about 30 foreign workers, mostly from Vietnam, who do the fine cutting and polishing needed.

The diamond polishers are cutting about 10 per cent of the diamonds extracted from DeBeers Canada's Victor mine, which began operations near Attawapiskat in northern Ontario in 2008. The remaining diamonds are being sent overseas to be cut.

Dylan Dix, marketing director for Crossworks, said the level of technical and artistic skill required to meet the standards DeBeers requires meant the plant needed experienced master cutters.

"When you consider it as artistry, every facet must be perfectly aligned ... [so] every polisher has over 10 years of experience," said Dix.

Trainee hiring process to begin in fall

He said the company plans in the fall to look at finding two to four local workers to begin training to do some of the cutting work in the production cycle, but he said the process of adding trainees takes time. The company would not reveal the wages for the diamond cutting positions are, citing competition concerns.

Provincial Mining Minister Michael Gravelle said even a few jobs is a good start.

"I don't mean to be glib here, but even two or four jobs, any additional jobs in northern Ontario are significant. We know that it's a commitment of Crossworks to get that training in place," said Gravelle.

About $35-million worth of diamonds will have gone through the Sudbury plant by the end of its first year.

The Victor mine is expected to produce about 600,000 carats of diamonds each year during its projected 12-year lifespan.

It's the province's first diamond mine and DeBeers's second in Canada, after the Snap Lake mine in the Northwest Territories.

With files from The Canadian Press

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