Mining giant Rio Tinto plans ramping up the underground block cave project at its Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia, leading to a transition from the current open pit operation, to underground. For this it has outlined investment worth US$803 million. Project funding will include project development and construction of extraction services, crushers, a conveyer and pump stations at the mine in the Kimberley region of north-west WA. “This investment in the Argyle underground underlines our commitment to and confidence in the world diamond industry”, said Rio Tinto Diamonds and Minerals chief executive Harry Kenyon-Slaney.
The company expects the underground to be fully operational in 2013 and extend the life of the mine until at least 2019. “The project was slowed in 2009 due to the global financial crisis but the diamond market continues to recover and long-term industry fundamentals remain healthy. A significant supply gap is expected to emerge in the medium to long term and the outlook for demand is strong, driven by the growth of emerging markets. Argyle is well positioned to capture the new demand”, added Kenyon-Slaney.
Construction activity will begin in the first half of 2011, with targeted production rates of nine million tonnes a year forecast within two years.
The extension is being viewed as building Argyle’s contribution to economic development in the Kimberley region.