Diamonds are a city’s best friend. On Oct. 25, the GNWT announced that Yellowknife will host the 12th International Kimberlite Conference in 2021 – just in time to celebrate 30 years of the precious stone in the territory.

The winning bid was created by the GNWT, the City of Yellowknife and NWT Tourism.

“This in my opinion was an example of three partners working together very strategically,” said Cathie Bolstad, executive director of NWT Tourism. “It all came together really, really nicely.”

A photo of diamonds extracted from Kennady’s Kelvin kimberlite, a kind of rock that sometimes contains diamonds. The company recently completed a private round of fundraising totalling more than $48 million. photo courtesy of Kennady Diamonds

The conference is expected to bring around 500 people to the NWT, generating an estimated $1 million in economic benefit.

Held every three to five years, the conference is a chance for academic and industry leaders to get together to talk diamonds – including formal technical presentations and field excursions to check out major diamond deposits. The first conference was held in Cape Town, South Africa in 1973, with the most recent one held this year in Gaborone, Botswana. It’s only been held once before in Canada, in Victoria, B.C., in 2003.

“This conference is not just about mining,” stated Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann. “It’s about sharing our region and all its potential with an international audience.”

NWT tourism statistics have been rising by leaps and bounds in recent years, with some of the biggest gains in travellers coming to view the aurora. But business travel, especially for conferences, is hot on its heels – in 2016-17, 34,900 people travelled to the territory for business, an increase of 13 per cent from the year before. Those travellers spent $84.9 million in 2016-17, according to GNWT statistics.

Yellowknife’s hospitality sector has been growing in tandem with the demand. When the Chateau Nova hotel opened last year, Bolstad told Yellowknifer the extra rooms would mean Yellowknife could now accommodate bigger conferences, and more of them.

Joey Cruz, president of the Yellowknife Hotel Association agrees – he previously told Yellowknifer it used to be that big conferences “pretty much filled the whole town up.”

Bolstad is happy to see the new rooms open up.

“To present a program you have to present your ability to host it,” she said. “We all celebrated but at the end of the day when this conference comes to the Northwest Territories, Northwest Territories Tourism has finished its work. We’ve helped put the destination on the map, we’ve pitched this is a great place for a conference, but the GNWT and its minerals division and the geoscience office, they will be the ones planning hosting and delivering this conference.”

The conference will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the the discovery of diamonds in the territory. On Nov. 6, 1991, Dia Met Minerals announced it had discovered diamonds outside of Yellowknife. In the years that followed, exploration investment in the Slave Geological Province discovered more diamonds, and eventually led to the four major NWT diamond mines – Ekati, Diavik, Snap Lake and Gahcho Kue.

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