© Shore Gold Inc. photo
Analysis of mined material takes place at Shore Gold’s on-site core warehouse, at the Star-Orion South Diamond Project, about 60 kilometres east of Prince Albert.
The city’s elected officials have good things to say about the diamond mining industry -- a sentiment made clear in their endorsement of a nearby project.
The Shore Gold Star-Orion Diamond Project site is located about 60 kilometres east of Prince Albert. Its first core holes were drilled in 1996, and it is expected to house enough diamonds to necessitate a five-year pre-production period and a 20-year-long mine production phase.
“It’s been talked about for many years,” Coun. Martin Ring said. “I wish it would come sooner rather than later -- it’s been taking a long time.”
During this week’s executive committee meeting, Ring was the most vocal proponent of the project, reading approval of the city’s official response to the Shore Gold Environmental Impact Statement.
The 14-page response poises the city and its surrounding area to both better prepare for the project and reap its benefits.
Expected to employ about 670 people during its four-year construction phase and 730 people while it’s in operation, Ring notes that these employment numbers would mean big changes for the area -- changes that require preparation.
“Economic stimulus is what we’re looking for,” Ring said after this week’s meeting. “We’re looking for industry for our city.
“We don’t just want the product dug up and taken away, we want to have some production right here in our city and within our province, as well.”
The city’s official response to Shore Gold -- a now public document prepared by Meyers Norris Penny consultants -- requests that local manufactures be given priority over foreign companies.
This request is key, Ring said, noting that the goal is for there to “be some production facilities left as close to the mining as possible, so that means allowing businesses to come in here that are able to work with the diamonds themselves -- even cutting to a certain degree, or a sorting plant for diamonds.”
Pulling from past experience with the Prince Albert Pulp Mill, he notes that spinoff jobs become easy once there’s a push for the raw product to remain in the area for value-added work.
With the Prince Albert area generally boasting a higher unemployment rate than the balance of the province, another request is that a 60 per cent target be set for local hiring.
Although the diamond mine would bring various positive economic benefits to the Prince Albert area, it’s not all positive, Ring cautions.
I wish it would come sooner rather than later -- it’s been taking a long time. Coun. Martin Ring
Using Fort McMurray as an example, there are complications to adding hundreds of high-paying jobs to the local economy.
“There are pressures that are put on your infrastructure, your water and sewage capacity, but there’s also pressure put on your school system, your health-care systems, your police protection services and even your fire protection services,” He said.
“So, I think those are all things that have to be considered and find ways to mitigate it and assist communities like ours moving forward.”
Likely impacts that need addressing, according to the city’s response, also include lower vacancy of living accommodations and higher rental prices.
Shore Gold documents indicate that salaries at the mine will range from about $1,000 per week for entry level staff to more than $2,000 per week for professional staff.
This added purchasing power might increase housing prices, as has happened in other jurisdictions, the city’s response reads.
With housing prices straining the pocket books of people working in other sectors, labour costs might go up, costing existing business owners more.
With the Star-Orion Diamond Project in the planning stage since the mid-’90s, the city’s response to Shore Gold’s environmental impact statement, which was released last month, is another step in the right direction, Ring said.
“There are some people who are still thinking, ‘well, that’s never going to happen.’ I’d like to remain positive and think, you know what, I think there is an opportunity and certainly a possibility that it’ll become very viable.”
The city’s full response to Shore Gold’s environmental impact statement is available on their official website, online at ww.citypa.ca.
In addition to its online public release, it will be forwarded to the provincial government, the local chamber of commerce and various other relevant parties.
Council is expected to formally endorse the document during Monday’s city council meeting, reiterating the tentative approval expressed during this week’s executive committee meeting.