“Secret” Ontario diamond royalties necessary protection for De Beers

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When royalty figures from De Beers’ Victor diamond mine were leaked earlier this month, many Ontarians were shocked at the secrecy surrounding the numbers. However, according to Tom Ormsby, De Beers vice-president of external and corporate affairs, the confidentiality clause in Ontario’s Mining act that protects this information also applies to all the other mines in the province.

“None of the forty-plus mines in Ontario are actually required to [release] their various royalty payments,” says Ormsby. “The reason that [we] have a unique line in the mining act … is because we’re the only diamond producer.”

According to Ormsby, all mines are required to report their royalties as an aggregated group, rather than releasing them individually. Because the Victor diamond mine is the only one in the province, De Beers is not afforded that sort of anonymity. Thus, Ormsby says, legislation in Ontario does not require the diamond royalties to be disclosed individually to the public, as “it would be unfair… to put something into the ledger that people could specifically point to about one company, while none of the other forty mines are required to do so.”

Ormsby notes that the CBC-Michener-Deacon investigation has sparked an important conversation about whether the mining industry brings any additional benefit to the lives of Ontarians. However, he says, the way in which De Beers’ royalty payment of $226 in 2013-14 was presented to the public was “unbalanced.”

At that time, De Beers was still in the capital write-down phase of the mine as a result of having invested $1 billion to build and open it just six years earlier. Since opening the Victor mine in 2008, De Beers has paid around $47 million to the government of Ontario, millions of dollars of which came from royalties paid in 2014. “People were left with the impression that [the released $226 figure] was the only thing that was headed to the province of Ontario,” he continues. “By getting our number, we became a disproportionate focus of the discussion.” CJ

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