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Extremely Difficult Diavik Mine now Relents to Give up its Treasure
Rough Diamond Production Upswing to Cross Highest 10 m. carat Mark...
By: Administrator
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Aug 28 2007 12:00AM
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Reference: 2229  

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The Diavik Diamond Mine’s production of rough diamonds is expected to scale an all time high of over 10 million carats, with prospects of further increase in the subsequent years.

Continuous Rapid Growth:
The mine which commenced production in early 2003 yielded 3.83 million carats of rough diamonds in the very first year. This rose to about 7.57 million carats in 2004; about 8.27 million carats in 2005 and 9.83 million carats in 2006.

Joint Ownership Successful:
The mine which is jointly owned by Rio Tinto (60 per cent) and Aber Diamond Corporation has turned out to be very promising. While the mine is actually operated by Rio Tinto, its output is shared between the two partners in proportion to their stakes in this joint venture. Both the partners are allowed to market their share of output, independently of each other.

Recent Results Promising:
If any proof is needed for the expected rise in Diavik’s production in 2007, it is provided by the mine’s performance in the last quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007. The mine delivered 2.5 million carats of diamonds in the fourth quarter of 2006, implying that it had already stepped up its tempo of production to turn out 10 million carats of diamonds annually. This has been further substantiated by the mine’s performance in the first quarter of 2007, when, according to Aber Diamond Corporation, it produced 2.6 million carats, indicating an annual production rate of 10.4 million carats.

Alternate Road Route:
In regard to the mine’s performance in the first quarter of 2007. Aber Diamond Corporation points out that the seasonally cold winter and improved logistics enabled the Diavik Mine to complete a successful winter road program during the quarter, with a record volume of 4,753 loads transported to the Diavik mine site. An alternate winter road route was also pioneered this year to provide additional future capacity in the event of an early closure of the primary road.

Four More Kimberlites Identified:
Prospects for further increase in the Diavik’s production in the coming years remain encouraging. It might be interesting to note that Diavik has already identified at the current location four more Kimberlite pipes. It has however been sourcing ore so far, from the A-154 South Kimberlite alone. In the first quarter of 2007 it obtained 0.52 million tonnes of ore from that pipe and recovered 2.6 million carats of rough diamonds. So far, this Kimberlite is worked as an open-pit mine, but steps are being taken to work it simultaneously underground as well.

Preparation to Commission Other Pipes: Similarly, steps are also being taken to operate two more kimberlites – A 154 North pipe and A 418 pipe. A 154 North has already started making some contributions to the supply of ore. Meanwhile, work is on to remove overburden and waste rock to prepare the A-418 pipe for open pit mining later in the current year.

Sampling at A-21 Pipe:
Work has also commenced on extracting a bulk sample from the fourth kimberlite, known as A-21 pipe. This will help in the valuation of its diamonds. If valuation is promising enough a feasibility study of that kimberlite will be taken up as a necessary step in the promotion to reserve status of its estimated 14.6 million carats of diamonds which are now treated as resource.

Diavik Diamond Mine proposes to undertake underground mining, beginning it with A-154 South pipe. It is expected to employ mechanized continuous mining technology in the underground mining, the type used in some Russian Mines.

Present Focus:
Thus the focus of the Diavik Mine at present is on its three Kimberlites – A-154 South, A-154 North and A-418, which are ranked among the richest ore-bodies in the world.

Ore Bodies Under Lake-water:
Mining in the Far North is not an easy operation. This is particularly of true of Diavik, where the ore bodies are actually located under the surface of the Lac de Gras. In order to mine there, ore-dykes are constructed to hold back the water of the lake from a certain submerged area where mining is to take place.

Continuous Mining Technology:
The Diavik Diamond Mine proposes to undertake underground mining, beginning it with the A-154 South pipe. It is expected to employ mechanized continuous mining technology in the underground mining, the type used in some Russian mines. This is expected to improve productivity, and significantly reduce damage by avoiding the drill blast cycle.

Recovery of Small Diamonds:
Moreover, in the processing plant, a continuous improvement program is expected to enhance the recovery of small diamonds on the one hand, while removing impact points in the diamond recovery area that are believed to be causing damage to larger diamonds. Of course the recovery of additional small diamonds may bring down the coverage price per carat, but may actually increase the overall value of diamonds recovered from the ore. The effect on diamond price per carat is, on the whole, expected to be substantially offset, both by the reduced damage to larger stones and by increased diamonds prices as an increasingly wealthy world population meets an under-supplied diamond market, especially in the higher quality gemstones that define both the product itself and its market.

Promising Potential:
The Diavik Diamond Mine’s potential is quite encouraging. The three main pipes have total proven diamond reserves of 39.9 million carats and additional probable reserves of 41.8 million carats. Thus the total proven and probable reserves of its three main pipes comes to 81.7 million carats. If the valuation of the bulk sample from the fourth pipe A-21 is found satisfactory, its estimated contents of 14.6 million carats may be added to the overall reserves.

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