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Dominion recalls 60 Ekati mine workers for restart

Dominion said it would take all measures to restart the Ekati Mine as soon as possible and no later than Jan. 29, 2021. NNSL file photo

Dominion Diamond Mines plans to recall close to 60 furloughed employees to its Ekati Diamond Mine in early December to prepare for an anticipated restart of the mine, the company said in a news release Friday.

The decision comes as Dominion expects an agreement can be reached between the company's banks, which comprise its senior secured lenders, and a group of holders of its second lien notes to restructure the company's debt and provide it with funding.

"Dominion has determined to recall these employees given necessary lead times required to mobilize the workforce while adequately complying with Covid-19 isolation protocols," the company stated. "In connection with the employee recall, the company continues to take necessary precautions to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for its employees and the communities in the NWT."

The recall of workers comes as Dominion anticipates an agreement can be reached between banks that the company uses and a group of holders of its second lien notes to restructure Dominion's debt and provide it with funding.
photo courtesy of Dominion Diamonds

Dominion is protected from its creditors until Dec. 15, in line with an order from the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) Court. It filed for insolvency in April, about a month after it suspended operations at the Ekati mine due to Covid concerns.

The decision to bring back the 60 workers follows months of anticipation first expressed in May that Dominion could restart Ekati in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The restart was initially tied to the company being able to close the sale of its Ekati Mine assets – said to be worth at least $165 million – to affiliates of Dominion’s parent the Washington Companies.

But that proposed sale fell through in October when Dominion’s surety bond issuers Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, Argonaut Insurance Company and Zurich Insurance Company Ltd. failed to reach an agreement with Canadian Diamond Holdings, L.P. and CA Canadian Diamond Mines ULC, affiliates of the Washington Companies, on the stalking horse bid for Dominion’s assets.

A Dominion spokesperson wasn't immediately available for further comment.

Union of Northern Workers (UNW) president Todd Parsons said the union is optimistic about the future of the Ekati mine, and it will continue to advocate for its members who are looking forward to returning to work.

Members of UNW's Local 3050 work at the Ekati mine.

Ekati, located about 310 km northeast of Yellowknife, opened in 1998 and is Canada's first surface and underground diamond mine.