The company is going underground at the A21 open pit, a move that will help extend the mine’s life into early 2026.
Rio Tinto is going underground on another pipe at Diavik, its diamond mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories that’s been in operation for 20 years.
The mining company announced [the week of February 20] that it has approved a $40 million investment in the first phase of underground mining at the existing open-pit operations at the A21 pipe.
It is expected to deliver an additional 1.4 million carats of diamonds for Diavik.
Rio Tinto said it will move existing employees and contractors from other areas of the mine for both the construction and production phases of the project.
In the first half of 2024, Diavik is expected to seek approval for phase 2 of the A21 underground project, anticipated to yield 800,000 carats of rough diamonds.
“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 Rio Tinto Minerals Chief Executive Sinead Kaufman.
“This is good news for our employees, partners, suppliers and local communities in the Northwest Territories.”
Located 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, the Diavik Diamond Mine consists of four kimberlite pipes: A154 North, A154 South, A418, and A21.
A21 was the last of the four pipes commissioned, opening in 2018.
Rio Tinto said based on the updated mine plan and production schedule, including the A154N and A154S pipes, the first and, if approved, second phases of underground operation at A21 will extend the mine’s life into the first quarter of 2026.
The original life-of-mine plan had Diavik closing in 2025.
Rio Tinto has operated Diavik since it opened in 2003 but previously had a partner in the mine, Dominion Diamond Mines, which owned a 40 percent stake.