Ekati diamond mine is a joint venture between BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc. (80%) and geologists Charles E. Fipke and Dr. Stewart E. Blusson (10% each). Located approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife and 200 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories, Canada, the mine produces 6 percent of the world’s diamond supply in terms of value and 4 percent by weight (3 to 5 million carats per year).
The union representing about 375 workers at the mine has been on strike since April 7. The union is asking consumers not to buy Ekati diamonds produced under the Aurias and CanadaMark trademarks while the union fights for a collective agreement. Canadian diamonds gained popularity as they were advertised as the “conflict free” diamonds compared to diamonds from war-torn African countries like Sierra Leone and the Congo. Now the unions are pushing their own awareness campaign against the “Dirty Diamonds” being produced at Ekati despite a labor conflict. The newspaper ads can be seen online at the union’s website at: http://psacnorth.com.
In late May, the Ekati diamond mine owner BHP Billiton Ltd. began legal actions to sue the striking union for allegedly threatening and harassing workers who chose to return to the job. BHP said the mine is operating at full production without the company bringing in replacement workers.
The talks broke off over employee protection clauses, according to mine management who said about 40 percent of employees have continued to work despite the strike. The union seeks to fine those employees and refuses the company’s requests to drop any fines or recriminations against these employees.
With more dollars flowing into the “Dirty Diamonds” awareness campaign, consumers can expect to hear much more about this Canadian labor conflict in the months ahead.