Rio Tinto has approved a $40-million investment that will extend the productive life of Diavik — Canada’s largest diamond mine — until the first quarter of 2026.
The new funding will pave the way for the underground expansion of the prolific open-pit mine, which has yielded more than 100 million carats since the site first opened in 2003.
The first phase of the project will explore new diamond resources directly below Diavik’s existing A21 open pit. Phase 1 is expected to deliver an additional 1.4 million carats of rough diamonds.
Diavik expects to seek approval for Phase 2 of the A21 underground project in the first half of 2024. That phase is expected to deliver an additional 800,000 carats.
“Rio Tinto’s decision to support the underground development of the A21 pipe was prefaced on compelling industry fundamentals, our proven capacity to safely develop diamond mines in extreme conditions and a track record in competing successfully in the global diamond industry,” said Sinead Kaufman, Chief Executive of Rio Tinto Minerals. “This is good news for our employees, partners, suppliers and local communities in the Northwest Territories.”
Located in Canada’s frigid Northwest Territories, about 300 km (190 mi) northeast of Yellowknife, the Diavik Diamond Mine is most famous for producing the “552,” the largest rough diamond ever unearthed in North America. The 552-carat gem was discovered in October 2018 and made a public appearance at Phillips auction house in New York City in February of 2019.
The Diavik mine, which has consistently produced about 6 to 7 million carats of rough diamonds per year, is 100 percent owned and operated by Rio Tinto. According to mining.com, Diavik employs more than 1,100, of which 17% are Northern Indigenous people.
Credits: Rough diamonds and mine images courtesy of Rio Tinto. “552” photo by The Jeweler Blog.