Canada’s newest diamond mine, the world’s largest of its kind in the last 13 years, has formally began operations near the Arctic Circle in the country’s remote far north.
Gahcho Kué, a joint venture between De Beers Canada (51%) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49%), is expected to contribute $5.2 billion (Cdn$6.7 billion) to Canada’s economy and provide 1,200 new jobs.
The mine, estimated to be one of the world’s 10 biggest diamond mines, is the sixth precious rocks operation opened in Canada in the 18 years that the country has mined diamonds.
“Allied to our major investments in production capacity expansion in the southern African region, the opening of Gahcho Kué positions De Beers and its partners strongly to capitalise on the industry’s positive demand outlook,” De Beers Group chief executive Bruce Cleaver said in a statement.
Situated almost 300 kilometres east of Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Gahcho Kué has so far provided a $341 million (Cdn$440 million) boost to the territories’ economy. It has also contributed a further $272 million (Cdn$350 million) to the rest of Canada, according to DeBeers.
The deposit was discovered in 1995 and took more than $1 billion to develop. It is comprised of three open pits, which are accessible only by air, except for a few months in winter when trucks can travel across ice roads.
What makes the mine especially important is the fact that two of Canada’s major diamond mines — Diavik and Ekati — are approaching the end of their productive lives, and —although it’s smaller— Gahcho Kué would be able to offset the production drop-off.
The new mine is forecast to produce about 4.5 million carats a year over its estimated 12-year life span.
Gahcho Kué is also expected to help Canada keep its position as the world’s third largest diamond producer by value and the fifth largest by volume.