Rio Tinto, operator and 60 percent owner of the Diavik diamond mine, has achieved an important milestone in its transition to underground mining in the remote Northwest Territories of Canada.
The milestone of one million tonnes of ore produced from underground mining in sub-arctic conditions was achieved on April 23 and demonstrated the successful future that awaits Diavik as a fully-fledged underground mine, the company said.
"These are exciting times at Diavik and this is an accomplishment shared by our workforce and partners. Most importantly, we can celebrate reaching this milestone in a manner that has always put safety first," Diavik President and Chief Operating Officer Niels Kristensen said.
Production from Diavik’s underground mine commenced in early 2010 in parallel with open pit operations. The transition to a fully underground operation will be complete in 2012 and will sustain Diavik production well past 2020.
To prepare for underground mining at Diavik, several years of design and engineering feasibility work were conducted and over $811.5 million (C$800 million) of funding was required from Rio Tinto and its 40 percent joint venture partner in Diavik, Harry Winston. This investment and transition to underground mining demonstrated both joint venture partners’ confidence in Diavik’s future as a significant supplier of high end white diamonds, Rio Tinto said.
"The diamonds unearthed at Diavik are among the best white gem diamonds produced in the world today. We have seen and continue to see, strong demand for Diavik diamonds in both established and emerging markets," Kristensen said.