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Alrosa starts drilling at flooded Mir pipe

The closed open-pit at the Mir mine in the city of Mirny, Yakutia. (Image courtesy of Alrosa).

The world’s top diamond producer by output, Alrosa (MCX: ALRS), announced that it has started test drilling at the Mir kimberlite pipe with the goal of figuring out how feasible it is to reopen this diamond deposit.

Located in the city of Mirny, in the eastern Russian region of Yakutia, the mine was shuttered in August 2017 due to flooding.

However, Alrosa has been pledging to reopen it and is investing approximately $32.4 million to explore the deposit. In detail, experts from the company’s Vilyui Exploration Expedition will start studies at the depth of 1,200 – 1,600 metres below the surface. This will help define more precisely the pipe’s dimensions, its position, diamond quality and grades, as well as geological conditions and hydrogeology.

Alrosa said that 15 separate branches drilled from one main shaft will provide unique geological information on the deeper part of the kimberlite pipe. Another two vertical wells will provide data for the design of the future mine structure

“The bulk of drilling will be performed by VPT-NEFTEMASH LLC. This contractor, defined by a tender, has a record of successful construction of deep and ultra-deep prospecting and production wells for major oil and gas producers,” Sergey Khvostik, head of the Vilyui Exploration Expedition, said in a media statement. “It possesses state-of-the-art technologies for controlled-angle drilling and has its own facilities in Mirny and Lensk districts of Yakutia. The Yakutniproalmaz institute will analyze all the information to prepare a feasibility study and a reserve estimate report.”

According to Khvostik, the report is expected in 2022.

The executive also said that a decision to restart the mine will depend on positive economics of the project provided that the highest level of industrial safety both at the construction and mining stages will be achieved. 

“If both conditions are met, a reconstruction of the mine may start no earlier than 2024. Preliminary estimates show that these works will take another 6-8 years,” Khvostik said.