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Book Review:
Canada's Northern Diamonds

by Gayla Meredith

(Reviewed by Murray Lundberg)


Canada's Northern Diamonds: from rocks to riches     Since the first discovery of diamonds in Canada's Arctic in 1991, diamond exploration, mining and processing has become an increasingly important segment of the economy of the Northwest Territories in particular and of Canada generally. Despite that, most Canadians know little or nothing about the industry, and even in northern Canada solid information is not easy to find. What does diamond-bearing ground look like? How large an area is involved? How important is the industry? What are "conflict-free" diamonds?

    In Canada's Northern Diamonds: from rocks to riches, Gayla Meredith not only answers those and many more related questions, she does it in a way that is accessible to anyone from grade-school students to media researchers. The author has spent the last ten years teaching Grades 2-5 at Range Lake North School in Yellowknife, and that experience has heavily influenced the book project, both in content and execution. A partnership between Ms. Meredith, diamond-related companies and government agencies has resulted not only in the production of the book, but in the creation and funding of the NWT Literacy Council for the purpose of encouraging classroom writing and book-making projects in the territory.

Not all kimberlites contain diamonds...     The design and layout of the book are notable for their effectiveness in a publication which is intended primarily as a research tool. A large map showing current diamond exploration and mining projects folds out from the back cover and can be kept visible as you read other sections that take you from the geological history of diamonds to the marketing of finished gems. Other fold-outs on each page contain various sidebars with information of note. A mascot named Carat points out other facts throughout the book. The graphic seen above, for example, is located beside a diagram of a kimberlite pipe, a major indicator of the presence of diamonds.

    Although diamond mining is the primary focus of the book, the author has included many facts about other aspects of the Northwest Territories, from ecoregions to territorial emblems. Although Nunavut is included on the main map and other diamond regions are discussed, the book is very NWT-specific, not surprising given the fact that there are only 46 pages.

    The range of information presented is extremely good, and is largely presented in practical ways. Most people with an interest in diamonds, for example, will appreciate knowing that it takes 16,000 carats of diamonds to fill a hard hat, and that the first advertising aimed at creating an emotional value to diamonds began in 1939. The section which describes how diamonds are separated from the rocks that contain them is particularly good, even including a ruler showing both metric and Imperial measurements.

    There are unfortunately several fairly significant errors in the material presented, most of them of the "typo" variety that should have been caught during editing. Most of the errors are contained in the timeline which runs as a sidebar on each page. Among them, it is stated that diamonds were discovered in India in 800 AD, when it was actually 800 BC (or the politically-correct 2750 BP). There are also several errors in direction - Snap Lake, for example, is stated on page 17 to be northwest of Yellowknife, and as northeast in two other places (northeast is correct).

    There are other issues in the content that are subjective. In the glossary, where such terms as "kimberlite indicator minerals" are defined, I suggest that including "carrot" and "construction" aims at a readership that is nowhere near ready for the book. I also suggest that comments such as "...the environment cannot be harmed" during mining would be more accurate if stated as "the environment is harmed as little as possible," since many of the photos clearly show environmental damage that ranges from minor (exploration camps, for example) to massive (the mines themselves).

    Despite the issues mentioned, Ms. Meredith has accomplished what she set out to do - produce the first book on Canada's diamond industry, and that makes it a worthwhile addition to any school or research library.


Title: Canada's Northern Diamonds: from rocks to riches
Author: Gayla Meredith
Publisher: Northern Ink, 2004
Paperback, 46 pages
Price: $22.95 Cdn
ISBN Number: 0973558105

Further reading: Diamonds in the Canadian Arctic