By Michelle Graff
An aerial shot of the Ekati Diamond Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories. A deal to sell the mine to two affiliates of its current owner, The Washington Companies, has fallen through, leaving the mine’s future in question. (©2017 Dominion Diamond Mines)
Calgary, Alberta—The proposed sale that could have saved Dominion and its Ekati Diamond Mine has fallen apart, leaving hundreds of employees to wonder if they’ll ever get back to work.

Dominion Diamond Mines ULC announced via press release Friday that its insurers, Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, Argonaut Insurance Company and Zurich Insurance Company Ltd., could not come to an agreement with the two companies angling to buy the mine, Canadian Diamond Holdings L.P. and CA Canadian Diamond Mines ULC.

Canadian Diamond Holdings and CA Canadian Diamond Mines are affiliates of Dominion’s current owner, The Washington Companies, and submitted the only bid only bid to buy the company, which filed for insolvency protection in April.

The impasse means the deal is effectively dead and Dominion will have to try to find another way to restart operations at the mine.

“Management is working with our financial and legal advisors to determine the best path forward given this sudden change,” a Dominion spokesperson told National Jeweler via email on Wednesday. 

“Our top priority is to restart the mine and recall our furloughed workers—that is our primary focus at this time.”

Ekati has been on care and maintenance since March, a decision the company attributed to COVID-19. The company filed for insolvency protectionthe following month.

The Dominion spokesperson did not supply a number when asked how many workers have been laid off as a result of the mine shutdown, but the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) said Ekati employed 396 members of Local 3050 before it was mothballed. (This figure does not include non-union workers or contractors.)

Only about 40 union members are working there now, doing care and maintenance.

UNW issued a statement of its own Tuesday, claiming details of the failed sale were communicated via the press release distributed country-wide on Friday before management or the union had the chance to tell workers. 

The union decried the uncertainty and lack of transparency it says have been a constant throughout the sale process and that have taken a “financial and emotional toll” on its members, who depend on the mine to support their families and communities.

UNW President Todd Parsons said there doesn’t seem to be any accountability on the part of the corporations to act in the best interests of its workers.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on many sectors and it’s very frustrating, as a union, to have to sit on the sidelines and watch billion-dollar corporations play monopoly with people’s lives,” he said.

Following news that the sale had fallen through, interim Dominion CEO Pat Merrin, who is chief operating officer of The Washington Companies, stepped down, Dominion confirmed.

Chief Financial Officer Kristal Kaye and Chief Operating Officer Mike Welch are heading the company, with support from independent Chairman Brendan Bell.

Dominion will remain in creditor protection until Nov. 7, barring an extension.

TAGS:   Mining
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