De Beers opens first mines outside Africa

London—De Beers officially opened the Snap Lake and Victor Mines in Canada today, marking a series of firsts for the London-based company.

Snap Lake and Victor are De Beers’ first two mines outside of Africa and the first time the company has opened two mines at the same time, according to a release from De Beers.

And, along with the opening of a third mine in South Africa later this year, 2008 will mark the first time in history De Beers has opened three mines in one year.

According to De Beers, Snap Lake and Victor together are expected to produce about 2 million carats of diamonds a year.

Snap Lake is located in the Northwest Territory and is the country’s first fully underground diamond mine.

It will employ 560 people with an annual production rate of 1.4 million carats and an expected lifespan of 20 years.

The open-pit Victor Mine, located near Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, is Ontario’s first diamond mine.

Its annual production rate will be 600,000 carats, it will employ 400 people and is expected to last 17 years.

De Beers Group Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers Canada Chairman Jonathan Oppenheimer, De Beers Canada President Jim Gowans and De Beers Group Managing Director Gareth Penny were slated to launch both operations.

Nicky Oppenheimer said it was an “exciting moment” for De Beers.

“I congratulate Jim Gowans and his team for their hard work and dedication in bringing Snap Lake and Victor Mines into production,” he said. “It is gratifying to see not only the contribution these mines will make to De Beers but the contribution they are already making to the communities in which they are based.”

According to De Beers, from exploration to production, these mines have brought employment, economic growth, skills training and business opportunities to Aboriginal communities in Canada, and De Beers has spent more than C$650 million ($639.7 million) with Aboriginal businesses.

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