Foreseeing a major diamond industry in the Prince Albert area as a not-so-distant reality, Embee Diamonds chief operating officer Evert Botha wants to see local job creation.
Unlike the uranium sector, which saw value-added jobs taken away from the local economy, the key will be making sure they stay in Prince Albert, he told city council last week.
“We’ve staked our claim some four-and-a-half years ago, and started cutting and polishing,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about getting more people to Prince Albert, it’s about creating more jobs for the local community.
“We do believe our business is a viable business, our industry is a viable industry. For the government of Saskatchewan and the City of Prince Albert, we’re considered to take a lead(ership role).”
With Embee Diamonds cutting and polishing diamonds in Prince Albert, the next logical step would be for jewelry manufacturing, he said.
“We’ve seen a huge demand in North America for jewelry made in North America, made in Canada, and not imported from China or India or elsewhere.”
During his presentation, Botha gave council a list of things they can do as a city to make sure diamond-dependent jobs are kept in Prince Albert.
An Export Processing Zone should be established and the waiving of taxes for their first five years should be considered, he said.
At the end of the day, it’s about getting more people to Prince Albert, it’s about creating more jobs for the local community. - Evert Botha, Embee Diamonds chief operating officer
Flights between Prince Albert and Calgary should be developed to better accommodate international diamond buyers, he encouraged.
“The City of Prince Albert has made huge inroads toward ensuring Prince Albert is connected to the rest of the world,” Botha said, crediting this in part to the leadership of Mayor Jim Scarrow.
“We can’t wait for the day when we can take a connecting flight to Calgary, straight from Prince Albert and then to the world markets and elsewhere.”
Past chair of the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce Doug Patrick said that a 30-day call for public response is in the wings, after which he expects the proposal for a diamond mining project at Fort a la Corne will be approved.
“We do feel that it’s an opportunity that, even though it’s been going on for many years and there’s been close to $400 million in exploration spent in our backyard to try and proof up this reserve, we feel that a decision will be coming as early as the first quarter of 2013,” he said.
Encouraging city council to help pave the road for diamond industry investment in Prince Albert, Botha urged council to consider his suggestions carefully.
“We don’t want to discourage a mining coming, or giving them a roadblock.”