Snap Lake

Equipment is transported to Snap Lake mine via the ice road

Snap Lake Mine, in the Canadian Northwest Territories (NWT), was our first mine outside of Africa and Canada's first completely underground diamond mine.  

Remote and isolated, 220 miles northeast of Yellowknife, the location presented special planning and timing challenges. Before building the mine, we had to build an ice road that would make it accessible by land for six to eight weeks of winter, and the airstrip that provides access throughout the rest of the year.

The mine is built under a lake and the deposit slopes from the shore under the lake at an almost horizontal angle of 12 to 15 degrees, making it a technically challenging mine to operate.  The mine area, including surface processing facilities, covers an area of 500 hectares.  In 2010, we recovered 925,000 carats, or about 53% of De Beers Canada’s total production, from 869,000 tonnes of treated ore.

In establishing Snap Lake, we signed community agreements with four of the NWT’s Aboriginal communities. Of the C$1.5 billion spent on construction and operation by the end of 2010, C$1.077 billion was spent with NWT-based contractors and suppliers, and C$676 million of it with Aboriginal businesses and joint ventures. 



  • 1997 - Winspear Diamonds Inc. discovers the Snap Lake kimberlite.
  • 2000 - We acquire Winspear and, with it, the Snap Lake deposit.
  • 2001 - Underground testing establishes the parameters of the kimberlite dyke and the diamond grade.
  • 2005-2007 - In line with our commitment to sustainable development in local communities, we sign Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) with four Aboriginal communities including the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the North Slave Métis Alliance, the Tlicho Nation,  and the Lutsel K'e and Kache Dene First Nation.
  • 2005 - Construction begins.
  • 2006 - A massive airlift is required because warm weather shortens the winter road season.
  • 2008 - Underground crushing and conveyor system is completed and commercial production begins.
Snap Lake Mine Snap Lake Mine