Part 3: The World’s Most Remote Mines
Diamonds deposits are often discovered in incredibly remote areas. Although the Argyle Diamond Mine is located a very long drive from anywhere you’d likely want to live, it’s at least a relatively hospitable location.
Not all miners are so lucky. The Diavik Diamond Mine is located in one of the most remote and unforgiving climates on the planet, some 220 km south of the Arctic Circle.
Isolated on a remote island in a remote lake—Lac de Gras—freight access to the Diavik Mine is restricted to seasonal ice roads created during the long winter freeze. Construction began in 2001, with production commencing in January 2003. The primary challenge for construction was to manufacture and deliver the mine’s entire fleet before the spring thaw.
The mine consists of three kimberlite pipes associated with the Lac de Gras kimberlite field.
The mine has become an important part of the (tiny) regional economy, employing 700, grossing C$100 million in sales (of a $4 bn regional GDP), and producing 8 million carats (1,600 kg) of diamonds per year.
The Diavik mine is owned by a joint venture between the Harry Winston Diamond Corporation and Diavik Diamond Mines Inc., a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Group. The lifespan of the mine is expected to be 16 to 22 years.
According to Wikipedia, in 2006 the ice road from Yellowknife to the Diavik mine, and neighbouring mines, froze late and thawed early. The mine was unable to truck in all the supplies needed for the rest of 2006 before the road closed and arrangements had to be made to bring the remainder of the supplies in by air.