De Beers Canada has constructed its largest mine in Canada, located at Kennady Lake, about 280km north east of Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories.
Gahcho Kué, an open-pit mine, comprising three pits and covering 1,200 hectares, has been built as a joint venture with Mountain Province Diamonds (MPV). De Beers’ stake is 51 per cent and its share of the investment is about US$500 million.
Full construction started in the 2014/15 winter and the mine officially opened on 20 September 2016. Production is expected to last 13 years, averaging 4.5 million carats a year from around 35 million tonnes of scheduled material. Estimates suggest 54 million carats will be recovered during the mine’s lifetime.1
An ice road has been built to enable the delivery of supplies - about 2,500 loads each year of fuel, construction supplies, mining equipment and other materials. Lakes are used to flood the roads and then the water is allowed to freeze. The ice is more than 40 inches thick, and it needs to be, given that the trucks and trailers heading to and from the site can weigh around 55,000kg.
The ice road, open for just two months a year, is a 120km spur to Gahcho Kué from the road to our Snap Lake mine, which was put into care and maintenance in December 2015. An extension to De Beers Canada’s third mine, Victor, is being considered.
To access the kimberlite deposits, the water level is being lowered in part of Kennady Lake, one of thousands of small lakes in the region. Some sections will be partitioned off and drained to reach the kimberlite by building a series of dykes, ditches, berms and ponds. But, as the water level is lowered, clean water is pumped into another watershed north of the lake.
Gahcho Kué, which means ‘place of the big rabbits or hares’ in the local Chipewyan language, began in 1995 when MPV discovered the first kimberlite deposit, known as 5034. Three other deposits were discovered by De Beers Exploration two years later, with two of them, the Hearne and Tuzo kimberlites, having excellent economic potential. Extensive drilling and analysis followed and environmental permits were sought and granted for 5034, Hearne and Tuzo.
Aerial footage of Gahcho Kué mine under construction. The footage initially shows a view looking approximately southwest towards two of three kimberlites. The footage pans left to show the large warehouse structure and the wings of the staff dormitories. The two cranes in centre view are working to erect the steel that makes up the frame of the processing plant. Also visible in the film are the airstrip and the fuel tank farm.
20 September 2016
Gahcho Kué diamond mine opens
3 August 2016
Gahcho Kué begins ramp-up to production
24 June 2015
A new mine among the big hares
5 May 2015
Building the ice road to Victor Mine