Opening of underground mine will extend life of Argyle diamonds
Rio Tinto, the international diamond and metals mining group, has opened a new Argyle underground diamond mine in the east Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The decision to move from open pit mining to underground mining is said to help extend the mining potential of Argyle diamonds until 2020.
The underground mine is the first of its kind in Western Australia and will use innovative block caving technologies which will help to boost output, taking the average annual production of the mine to about 20 million carats per year.
A commissioning ceremony held for the opening was attended by Western Australia’s minister for mines and petroleum Bill Marmion as well as traditional owners, government representatives and Rio Tinto executives and employees.
Rio Tinto diamonds and minerals chief executive Alan Davies said the Argyle mine had produced some of the world’s most spectacular diamonds and had delivered many benefits to the local region.
He said: “The new Argyle underground mine has allowed us to extend the life of this iconic asset for Rio Tinto and Western Australia. I am proud that we can continue our contribution to local employment and the economic development of the East Kimberley region, as we have over the past quarter of a century.”
With 70% of the workforce living locally, Argyle is one of the largest contributors to the East Kimberley economy. Indigenous Australians account for one in four members of its workforce.