The founder of Diavik Diamond Mine received one of six NWT Mining and Exploration (MAX) awards as The 2018 Geoscience Forum wrapped up Thursday evening.
Gren Thomas was honored with the Distinguished Service Award Thursday evening. Thomas got his start in northern mineral exploration close to 50 years ago when he immigrated from Wales and began working at Giant Mine. Shortly after he realized his love for mineral exploration and began exploring the north eventually discovering the diamond deposits that would become Diavik Diamond Mine.
“It’s a great honour to be recognized by your peers,” said Thomas. “Diavik was the main thing that I discovered but it wasn’t just me it was a group of people that made the discovery. . . I just happened to be the CEO.”
Thomas continued to work within the NWT, becoming the head of several companies including Highwood Resources, Aber Resources and Navigator Resources among others. His companies helped in discovering a number of mineral deposits, including the Nechalacho project and Sunrise Lake. Gren’s discoveries would eventually lead to him receiving the title The Man with the Golden Hand.
“Gren is an interesting person, he came over from Wales in the early 1960s to Yellowknife and he worked in Giant Mine and it didn’t take him very long to realize he really liked exploration,” said Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. “He’s been very successful, he’s astute in looking at what the future might hold and getting in before other people and knowing where to go look for it.
Gren’s contributions to the mining industry in the North are evident looking further down the recipients list. Diavik Diamond Mine was awarded the Special Achievement award for design and construction of three rockfill dikes that have opened up a number of pipes allowing for diamond mining in the industry.
“Without dike technology we wouldn’t have Diavik,” said Hoefer. “The challenge for them was they made all their discoveries of diamond deposits under a big lake. . . so they had to come up with a dike technology and came up with their own.”
The newest dike titled A21 will allow for Diavik to keep its current productivity levels up until the end of the mine’s life cycle.
Hoefer said evenings like Thursday, along with the entire Geoscience Forum, are important given the context of the industry today. It has been well-documented lately that current diamond mines, the largest private contributors to the NWT’s economy, are nearing the end of their lifespan.
“It’s important to understand the industry’s importance in the North and that will be reflected here,” said Hoefer.
The MAX awards were presented in partnership between the chamber of mines and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment. De Beers Canada (Economic Leadership); Ni Hadi Xa, environmental monitor for Gahcho Kue Mine (Environmental and Social Responsibility); the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Ice Road (Special Achievement — shared with Diavik); and the late Cece Hodgson-McCauley (Indigenous Achievement) rounded out the evening’s award winners.
The 2018 awards were the second installment of the annual awards ceremony.