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GNWT likely owed around $15 million from Ekati mine

The GNWT is owed around $15 million in fees and taxes in payments connected to the Ekati Diamond mine.

The Dominion Diamond Mining Company, who owned and operated the mine until December, entered creditor protection in April 2020, and has had a pause on paying back its debts since then. The company had also been looking for a buyer for the Ekati mine for a majority of that period.

The Ekati sale to two creditors was confirmed in December. This came after months of trouble as the Dominion Diamond Mining Company tried to sell the Ekati mine.

The sale of Ekati to its parent company Washington had failed back in October, with three insurance companies blocking the deal.

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Dominion has had a pause on paying back its debts since April.

But finding out information about how much the GNWT is still owed in arrears from the operators of Ekati is difficult, according to Kevin O’Reilly, MLA for Frame Lake.

O’Reilly said he couldn’t find documentation detailing how much was exactly owed to the territorial government but said it was likely around $15 million in outstanding fees. He said the sale of the mine was “good news,” but worried the GNWT would be missing out on fees it was owed.

“There’s been no concessions or debt write-offs, all those standing payments are not being forgiven,” Caroline Wawzonek, finance minister said in the Legislative Assembly. “Indeed, we continue to hold all of the securities as we did prior to the sale.”

The three insurance companies who blocked the sale of Ekati back in October, Aviva, Argonaut, and Zurich, have collectively issued around $280 million in surety bonds with the territorial government, to guarantee that Ekati can be safely closed once the mine closes. 

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The GNWT’s 2021-22 budget expected zero in royalties from mining companies in 2020, but said the GNWT would receive $47 million in fees related to running a mining operation. That’s amid declining own-source revenues — money that is not transferred from the federal government.

“We are very live to the fact that there’s a number of NWT businesses that are owed money in the course of this process,” said Wawzonek. “It is a process that’s monitored by the court and throughout that proceeding.” 

“We have continued to advocate in those proceedings and publicly to the courts, about the importance of the Ekati mine to the Northwest Territories economy and its impact on businesses here.”

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