Victor Diamond Mine marks a decade of historic achievement for De Beers

Victor Mine celebrates safety and a series of firsts in Ontario

Guests pause during a tour of the Victor Mine pit for a photograph. The pit was one of several stops along the tour including the Process Plant, Reclamation areas, and more.

Guests pause during a tour of the Victor Mine pit for a photograph. The pit was one of several stops along the tour including the Process Plant, Reclamation areas, and more. — Photo courtesy De Beers Canada

The Victor Diamond Mine, Ontario’s first and only diamond mine, is located in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario—a remote fly-in/fly-out site. The first diamonds were discovered at the Victor Mine in 1987, making this site the first commercial diamond discovery in Canada. The mine opened on July 26, 2008. Over the years, 7.2 million carats of diamonds have been recovered and 85 million tonnes of ore and rock mined.

Employees and guests gathered for tours and special events of the De Beers Victor Mine on August 15 to celebrate 10 years of safe and successful production.

Traditional Cree drummers from Moose Cree First Nation begin the festivities with a drum song.

Traditional Cree drummers from Moose Cree First Nation begin the festivities with a drum song, followed by another song to bring in the procession of honoured guest and speakers. — Photo courtesy De Beers Canada

Mission for safety

What makes this mine unique is the location and subarctic environment. “It’s peatland and bog—completely different conditions than in the Northwest Territories and earlier diamond mines in the country’s history,” said Tom Ormsby, head of external and corporate affairs at De Beers Canada Inc. “The remoteness of the mine and the lack of any other industrial mining was the biggest thing to overcome. This was a new place to build a mine.”

The Victor Mine won two John T. Ryan National Awards for safety in 2015 and 2016, recognizing the site as the safest mine in Canada. The mine won the Eastern Award in 2017 as well. This mission for safety is a shared goal within the company and came up as the highest priority on an employee survey. “It wasn’t management saying they had to do it,” Ormsby said, “but the employees saying we will be the safest mine in Canada in our final year.”

This shared vision has been strong since the beginning. “What was responsible for the mine’s success is the installation of safety from day one of the project phase,” he said, “even the exploration phase to be honest. It started early. We have a very low tolerance for poor performance in the safety field.”

Recognizing the Victor Mine as a great place to work was listed second on the employee survey, and quality diamonds was third.

Victor Mine mascot and safety champion Safety Vic waits to greet guest arriving from Timmins and the James Bay coastal communities ahead of the 10th Anniversary Celebrations on August 15, 2018.

Victor Mine mascot and safety champion Safety Vic waits to greet guest arriving from Timmins and the James Bay coastal communities ahead of the 10th Anniversary Celebrations on August 15, 2018. — Photo courtesy De Beers Canada

The anniversary event

“The 10th anniversary was quite an emotional time for a lot of us,” said Ormsby. He was with the team since the beginning—he was the master of ceremonies at both the opening and the anniversary activities. According to Ormsby, an incredible statistic for the Victor Mine is that “a quarter of the workforce currently working with the mine was there when we opened the mine.” Colleagues shared heartfelt stories in light of the mine’s success.

The next steps

The team is preparing the Victor Mine for the end of its production in 2019. “We are already working very hard in reclaiming a lot of the footprint of the mine,” Ormsby said. Guests toured the Victor open pit and processing plant. They also visited the greenhouse and crop box to see the ongoing reclamation process that has already started. Local seeds are grown into trees and other plants to reclaim the land as the Victor pit nears the end of its lifespan.

Jessica Dyczko, a reclamation coordinator at Victor Mine, answers questions about the mine’s on-site greenhouse.

Jessica Dyczko, a reclamation coordinator at Victor Mine, answers questions about the mine’s on-site greenhouse. — Photo courtesy De Beers Canada

However, the mine hasn’t lost steam yet. “There is still some tremendous production ahead,” said Ormsby. “It will be producing some of the best diamonds in the world until the final day. The team knows that until the final ore is processed they will be making a big impact.”

This will be the first closure of its kind as a diamond mine in Canada. De Beers is accepting this as a challenge to set the bar high. “The team is taking that on as seriously as they took on the 10 years of production,” Ormsby said.

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