De Beers opens massive diamond mine near Arctic Circle in Canada

Mine is one of the biggest in the world for the glittering stone

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 4:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 4:08am

De Beers officially opened one of the largest diamond mines in the world on Tuesday in Canada’s remote far north, near the Arctic Circle.

Called Gahcho Kue, the mine is situated in the outback some 280 kilometers (174 miles) northeast of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.

De Beers chief executive Bruce Cleaver said at a ceremony christening the new mine that he was “delighted with the official opening of Gahcho Kue, our largest ever mine outside of southern Africa.”

Global diamond company De Beers, headquartered in Johannesburg, owns a 51 per cent stake in the mine, whose name was derived from a local aboriginal language, meaning “big rabbit” in Chipewyan.

Its Canadian partner Mountain Province Diamonds controls the remaining ownership stake.

Discovered in 1995, the deposit located near the Arctic Circle took more than US$1 billion to develop.

The open pit mine is only accessible by air, except for a few months in winter when trucks may travel across ice roads.

It is expected to produce 54 million carats of rough diamonds over its operating lifetime, by 2028, and employ 530 workers who must be flown in from communities in the south for two-week work rotations, according to De Beers.

The diamond mine is the sixth to open in Canada in the last two decades, making this nation the fifth-largest diamond producer in the world in terms of volume and third in value, with more than Can$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) in annual exports.

Last December, De Beers halted operations at its Snap Lake mine adjacent to the new Gahcho Kue, and put it up for sale. It may be shuttered if no buyers come forward.

Another of its mines in Ontario province, meanwhile, is scheduled to close in the next three years.