Almod Diamonds Limited has been approved as the territory’s newest diamond manufacturer.
The New York-based company says it plans on opening a diamond polishing and manufacturing factory in Yellowknife in as little as three months.
The agreement was announced by Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann Monday morning.
“Diamond polishing and manufacturing is something that has created jobs and economic opportunity in diamond-producing jurisdictions all over the world,” said Schumann.
“This will give Almod access to NWT-mined rough diamonds for manufacturing here in the NWT. Almod will be taking immediate next steps to set up its operations in Yellowknife.”
By Thursday, officials with Almod expect to close the purchase of an old factory near the Yellowknife Airport.
Following that, engineers will assess the state of the factory and any equipment in it before bringing on staff.
Albert Gad, president and CEO of Almod, says the company will initially hire 10 people to run the factory.
Those 10 people are expected to come from other operations around the world to provide hands-on training to local workers, something that usually takes up to two years.
Once operational, Gad says the company will also explore the idea of opening up a retail store to tap into the territory’s growing tourism sector.
“What better opportunity than to have a diamond cutting facility here,” Gad told reporters Monday.
“You can actually come here and see the northern lights and go see the diamonds being cut and be able to purchase a diamond.”
‘We’ve maximized our growth’
Operating in 21 countries, Almod Diamonds Limited claims to be the largest vertically-integrated company in the diamond industry.
Outside of actually mining diamonds, the company does everything else from cutting and polishing rough rocks to designing and manufacturing jewelry and selling it through its retail arm, Diamonds International.
Now that Almod has received diamond manufacturer status, it has access to rough diamonds mined in the Northwest Territories.
Schumann says NWT diamond mines are required to provide 10 per cent of their production to a manufacturer in the territory.
The only other company with similar status in the Northwest Territories is Crossworks Manufacturing, which also operates out of Yellowknife.
Four years ago, the GNWT gave approved diamond manufacturer status to Deepak International Ltd., a company that also bought an old factory near the airport but ultimately never opened it and was sued by its financiers.
Last month, the territorial government terminated its monitoring, certification and trademark licensing agreements with Deepak.
Asked why his company will thrive in a jurisdiction where others have struggled to get off the ground, Gad said his company’s track record speaks for itself.
“Wherever we do go we’ve maximized our growth … depending on the opportunities that we have,” he said.
A committee of MLAs seemed encouraged by Monday’s announcement, adding that it could revitalize the diamond manufacturing sector in the Northwest Territories.