Robert Gannicott, the man who built Canada’s largest diamond mining company, Dominion Diamond (TSX: DDC; NYSE: DDC) and a pioneer of Canada’s diamond scene for 25 years, has died. Gannicott passed away on Aug. 3, at age 69, after a two-year battle with leukemia.
One of the first and most successful entrants into the Lac de Gras diamond rush in the Northwest Territories in the early 1990s, Gannicott is being remembered as a visionary and innovator, as well as for his vast contributions to Canada’s North.
With Grenville Thomas, he played an integral role at Aber Diamond in finding the Diavik mine. Gannicott then led the company through a series of transactions to become Dominion Diamond — the world’s third largest diamond miner after De Beers and Alrosa.
A transplant from England, Gannicott travelled to Canada when he was 19. Heading up to Yellowknife, he soon found work at the Giant mine as a raise-miner’s assistant. “He got in with the exploration crowd here,” says another longtime Yellowknife exploration stalwart Lou Covello, a founder of Aurora Geosciences.
A big man with an equally big personality, the friendly and down-to-earth Gannicott fit right in with the vibrant exploration community in the city. The burgeoning scene attracted many other ex-pats, including Grenville Thomas, who had immigrated to Canada from Wales. The two met socially in the late ’60s, Thomas recalls, although it would be another 15 years before they would actually work together.
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