By Michelle Graff
The main camp at the Ekati Diamond Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories is seen here in this file photo. A buyer has come forward for the mine’s troubled owner, Dominion Diamond Mines.
Calgary, Alberta—The company that operates the Ekati Diamond Mine has found a new-yet-familiar buyer and is asking for some more “breathing room” when it comes to repaying its debts.

After filing for insolvency protection in April, Dominion Diamond Mines ULC announced Sept. 16 it had struck a deal with Canadian Diamond Holdings LP and CA Canadian Diamond Mines UL, affiliates of current owner The Washington Companies.

The two subsidiaries have agreed to purchase it for $126 million, with $20 million made available to pre-filing trade suppliers.

Not included in the deal is Dominion’s share in the nearby Diavik Diamond Mine. Dominion is a 40 percent joint venture partner in Diavik, which Rio Tinto operates.

Both mines are located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, less than 200 miles from the Arctic Circle.

Canadian Diamond Holdings and CA Canadian Diamond Mines were the stalking-horse, and only, bidders for Dominion.

If completed, the deal will see the companies assume all of Dominion’s Ekati-related operating liabilities, including offering employment to most of the company’s employees.

The Ekati Diamond Mine has been on care and maintenance since mid-March, when Dominion said it was shutting it down due to COVID-19-related concerns, leaving hundreds out of work.

The mining company has not given an exact date on when production at Ekati will restart, though it has sold some diamonds through its Antwerp office, recent court filings show.

According to a report filed Sept. 23 by FTI Consulting Canada Inc., the monitor overseeing the company’s restructuring, Dominion netted $46 million from diamond sales earlier this month and was expected to bank $8 million more last week.

“However, it is uncertain how sustainable the gradual reopening will be,” FTI noted in the filing, adding that Dominion may consider selling more diamonds “should the economics be considered favorable.”

The company will use the net revenue from these diamond sales to pay back some of the money it has drawn under an interim financing facility.

Dominion’s sale to the two subsidiaries of The Washington Companies, which is subject to a number of conditions, is expected to close Nov. 7.

In the meantime, Dominion has asked for another extension of creditor protection, an injunction that prevents creditors from coming after the company for debts owed.

Originally set to expire May 2, the court extended the protection period to Sept. 28. Dominion is asking for a second extension to Nov. 7, the expected closing date of the sale.

Dominion Chief Financial Officer Kristal Kaye noted in a Sept. 18 affidavit that the extension would give the companies the “necessary breathing room … as they continue to work toward their restructuring objectives.”

TAGS:   Mining
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