The Great Canadian Diamond Mines: Ekati and Diavik

Until recently, Canada was not a major diamond-producing country, but in recent years it has become the third largest diamond producer in the world.

The Ekati mine opened in 1998 and is located in the Northwest Territories of Canada.  It was the first large diamond deposit found in Canada and is located just north of lac du Gras, 316 km (196 miles) northeast of Yellowknife.  Ekati in native indian means “caribou fat” which is a symbol of wealth.  It is owned by a joint venture between Dominion Diamond Corporation and the geologists who first found kimberlite pipes in the area, Chuck Fipke and Stewart Blusson.  They discovered the first kimberlite pipe in 1985 at Point Lake which set off one of the largest rushes in mining history.  The support from the BHP group allowed the mine to open in October 1998, and sales began in early 1999 in Antwerp.  There are 121 kimberlite pipes on the site; the first two to be exploited were the Koala and Panda pipes.  The mine includes a landing strip for a Boeing 737 which is used in the warmer months.  From mid-January to mid-April a road made of ice is used to transport rough stones out of the mines.

By 2009, the mine had produced 40 million carats from six open pits.  In November 2012 Harry Winston Diamond Corporation (currently Dominion Diamond Corporation) bought Eraki, paying $500 million.  The mine is expected to remain open until 2019.

The Diavik mine, also located in the Northwest Territories, was discovered in 1993 and started producing diamonds in 2003.  It is located 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Ekati.  This mine is owned by a joint venture between Dominion Diamond Corporation and a subsidiary of the Rio Tinto Group, Diavik Diamond Mines, Inc.  It is expected to remain open beyond 2020.  In 2010 the mine began underground mining, and by September 2012 all mining activities at Diavik were underground.

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