Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Timmins makes its mark on De Beers

The official opening of the De Beers Victor diamond mine on the weekend seemed to be as much an event for Timmins as it was for the world’s best-known diamond mining company.
The impact the De Beers mine has had on Timmins, and vice versa, is apparent the moment a visitor embarks on the journey north. Air Creebec, which has a significant base in Timmins, has the contract to ferry employees to and from the mine site, located approximately 550 kilometres north of Timmins.
There are several flights each day from the Victor Power Airport to the Victor project airstrip.
Passengers are quickly processed and boarded for the flight, which takes one hour, 20 minutes. Many of the mine employees are based in Timmins and are rotated on a schedule of two weeks in, two weeks out. There are exceptions, but a company spokesperson said the two-week rotation was the one that appealed to most of the workers.
Arriving at the site, visitors are hustled aboard a company bus and the safety factor comes into the play as the driver instructs every passenger to buckle their seat belt.
After a short drive from the airstrip to the administration building, passengers are processed through security and orientation and issued with safety gear; vest, hardhat, gloves, glasses and steel-toed boots.
As visitors are escorted around the property, there is something familiar about it all that is hard to place, until one realizes that many of the faces one sees, are those of Timmins residents.
Whether it’s a heavy equipment operator, a maintenance person, a manager or a kitchen staffer, Timmins residents are everywhere at the Victor project.
De Beers has also hired workers from across the north, from such communities as Cochrane, Kapuskasing, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and numerous First Nations communities. Corporate and public affairs manager Tom Ormsby says more than 40 per cent of the employees are aboriginals.
As part of the official opening ceremonies Saturday, Timmins city councillor, and acting mayor Steve Adams, was called to the podium.
“The city of Timmins is honoured to be here,” said Adams.
“This is very important to our city. This is very important to all the cities along Highway 11 and throughout Northern Ontario.”
Adams says many communities are learning that a new mining discovery does not necessarily have to be within their local city boundaries, in order for business to benefit.
“Our people have learned to be suppliers to mines, so for the next mining discovery we’ll be ready. And it’s sure to come, whether it’s diamonds or copper or whatever, we are ready,” said Adams.
Adams presented a plaque from the city to congratulate the diamond company on its success.
“It has been an honour to work with Timmins,” said mine general manager Peter Mah as he accepted the plaque. He congratulated city leaders for supporting the De Beers project right from the beginning.
“It has been a tremendous effort and I thank you,” said Mah.
Dave McGirr, president of the Timmins Economic Development Corporation, also attended.
“I think the De Beers Victor Mine is a classic example of a the strong economic development opportunities that do exist in the North and what we’ve seen today is, in my mind, the eighth wonder of the world,” McGirr enthused.
McGirr also predicted the project would have a profound socio-economic benefit for the communities and people of the James Bay Coast.
The event was also attended by many Timmins business leaders who have provided goods and services to the project. Timmins Chamber of Commerce president Marilyn Wood was in attendance, as was renowned Timmins photographer Graeme Oxby. Former Timmins mayor Vic Power attended as did well known local prospector John Larche.
The opening ceremonies and celebrations continue this evening in Timmins, as De Beers will host a civic reception for invited guests and community leaders.

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