“Ammolite is an important part of our heritage and economy,” Ron Orr said yesterday in the Kenney Government’s news release announcing that the little-known gemstone would soon become one of Alberta’s official emblems.
Mr. Orr is Alberta’s minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women. It’s the latter portfolio on that list that usually gets the biggest eyerolls when his name comes up in political discussions.
Still, it’s quite true as commentators on social media seemed to agree yesterday that when it comes to Mr. Orr announcing that a fossil is about to become Alberta’s official gemstone, the jokes sort of write themselves.
Bill 6, the Emblems of Alberta Amendment Act, 2022, Mr. Orr said, will recognize ammolite’s status as an official Alberta emblem.
Nevertheless, Albertans learning of Mr. Orr’s rainbow-coloured newsflash, first mentioned in last month’s Throne Speech, are entitled to ask themselves: Ammolite is an important part of Alberta’s economy? Really? Since when?
There are only a couple of mines for the stuff, both near Lethbridge, and, while pretty, it doesn’t exactly have an earthshaking history as a major commodity.
Still, Maybe there’s something to this. As gemstones go, ammolite may be no ruby or emerald, but its wholesale value is apparently the foundation of a cryptocurrency called the GEMXX Ammolite Cryptocurrency.
“The company is very pleased to introduce the world’s first Ammolite-backed cryptocurrency token, the only currency to be pegged to the current GEMXX wholesale market price of Ammolite,” Las Vegas-based GEMXX Corp. said in a news release in November 2021.
“The launch of this Token is good for GEMXX, but it is also good for the entire Ammolite industry,” GEMXX President and CEO Jay Maull said in that release. “Offering Ammolite in digital form may be as significant to Ammolite as the gemstone receiving official gem status in 1981.”
Now, we all know how the Kenney Government feels about cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency mining. Just last month, Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer was touting Alberta as an international destination for the cryptocurrency “industry,” prompting more than a few guffaws for that idea.
“This is an area of huge disruption and we want to make sure we’re there in that market,” Mr. Schweitzer told BNN Bloomberg News in early February, a story that was soon forgotten. “It doesn’t seem like any jurisdiction in Canada actually wants to own this opportunity. … It’s a big opportunity for us.”
Who knows if the Kenney Government knew anything about this particular cryptocurrency, tied to the wholesale price of a substance not known to be a mainstay of any economy, anywhere, Mr. Orr’s comment notwithstanding.
At his news conference yesterday, mostly ignored by media, Mr. Orr went on to say that “recognizing ammolite as Alberta’s official gemstone reflects the unique nature of the stone and of our province, and helps to fulfil recommendation 25 of the Fair Deal Panel.”
This statement is not really true.
First, ammolite is not actually unique to Alberta. It occurs all along the Eastern Slopes of Rocky Mountains where the fossilized shells of ammonites, prehistoric marine animals, are found. Alberta’s deposits are said to be more colourful, though.
The Eastern Slopes, perhaps by coincidence, is an area where the United Conservative Party Government would love to see mining for another remnant of prehistoric times, to wit, coal.
Second, Recommendation 25 of the so-called Fair Deal Panel report, or indeed any other part of the report, says not a word about ammolite. What Recommendation 25 did say was that the government of Alberta should immediately: “Explore ways and means to affirm Alberta’s cultural, economic and political uniqueness in law and government policy.”
How declaring a relatively obscure material only given gemstone status by the World Jewellery Confederation in 1981 will help affirm Alberta’s cultural, economic and political uniqueness in law and policy is a mystery.
The Wikipedia says ammolite is also known as Korite, a trade name given to it by Calgary-based Korite International Inc., which in 2017 was reported by the National Post to be “working to raise the profile of their multi-coloured gem here at home.”
“The company has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the Calgary Stampede Royalty,” the Post enthused.
Mr. Orr didn’t mention anything about that past effort by the company to raise the profile of its product when he described the reasons the decision was made to make ammolite an official provincial emblem in response to the only reporter to ask a question at his news conference yesterday.
Other reports in the company’s heyday indicated it controlled about 90 per cent of the world’s supply of ammolite at a couple of mines near Lethbridge, although there are other deposits in Alberta and in the United States.
According to his Linkedin page, Mr. Maull of GEMXX was president of Korite International from August 2015 to July 2018.
Korite International filed for bankruptcy protection under the federal Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in June 2020. The company had reported losses of $2.4 million in anticipated sales after trade shows in Hong Kong were cancelled because of riots in the Chinese territory and another $6.1 million as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Dec. 18, 2020, Korite International emerged from CCAA protection under new ownership.
Ammolite joins the wild rose, lodgepole pine, rough fescue grass, petrified wood, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, bull trout, and great horned owl as an official emblem of Alberta, so there’s bound to be a right-wing splinter party named after it soon.