Diamonds are an ITI minister’s best friend: last year’s gem bash
Bob McLeod and Dave Ramsay are off to Las Vegas this weekend to wave the territorial flag at the diamond industry’s largest North American trade show, and talk to manufacturers who might want to locate in Yellowknife.
“We’ve had discussions with producers, and people they think are interested in operating here,” said Ramsay, who is making a return visit to the Jeweler’s Circular Keystone, but the minister of Industry Tourism and Investment is more hopeful than optimistic.
“There has been a shrinkage of manufacturers, world-wide, and Yellowknife is a higher cost location,” said Ramsay, who will repeat, for anyone who hasn’t yet heard ,that the NWT has taken over the local diamond business from Ottawa, “and we’re open for business.”
So open that Ramsay has not yet lost patience with Deepak International Ltd. or its ever-mysterious president, Deepak Kumar, who missed another personal deadline to re-open two former factories on Archibald Street, Yellowknife’s former Diamond Row.
The factories remain as empty and silent as they were three years ago when Ramsay revealed that Kumar, a former ITI development officer in Behchoko, was the buyer of the buildings that had been on the market since 2011
Along with the buildings, DIL got approved NWT Diamond Manufacturer status, giving the company access to rough gems mined in the territory, government certification, and exclusive use of the coveted Polar Bear Diamond brand.
DIL was the only company to agree to the terms of the 2011 request for proposal: buy the buildings, and fill them with cutters and polishers etching the coveted polar bear logo on the girdles of diamonds. No deadline was set, however, and for the past three years, Kumar has named and missed several opening dates.
Kumar did not respond to EDGE’s requests for comment, and his Twitter account has been silent since earlier this year, when the Chippingham Financial Group named DIL in a statement of a claim filed in Ontario.
Chippingham says it’s owed $615,000 for hooking DIL up with Callidus Capital Corp. which provided $20 million to buy the Archibald Street buildings and the cutting and polishing equipment needed to turn them into factories.
Kumar did not seek re-election as a director of the Diamond Bourse of Canada, and DIL is not listed as one of the four manufacturers that are members, but as one of the dozens of companies that exist to export diamonds — the fate of most diamonds mined in Canada.
Kumar’s Twitter profile identifies him as a pro-NWT family man. Since leaving Behchoko almost a decade ago, Kumar has lived in Edmonton, where DIL makes its headquarters, but he’s a frequent visitor to Yellowknife where he has recruited cutters and polishers who remained after the last factory on Archibald Street closed its doors.
“He’s in regular contact with people in our department; he has bought the buildings and payments on the 20-year land lease are current,” Ramsay said before leaving for the Las Vegas diamond show.
“It would be good if the factories were open before the [territorial] election [set for November 23].”