Ekati mine and Antwerp operations will now be run by diamond business.

BHP Billiton has signed a definitive agreement for the sale of its Ekati diamond mine and its operations to Harry Winston for $500 million (£314m).

Reports that Harry Winston was interested in purchasing the Canadian mine, located near Yellowknife, first circulated earlier in 2012


The sale of the BHP mine to Harry Winston should be completed in Q1 of 2013. Under the terms of the agreements‚ Harry Winston will be committed to maintaining Ekati’s environmental standards and will continue to work with local Canadian businesses and communities.

All of BHP Billiton’s employees working at the Ekati mine and in its Diamond Marketing division in Antwerp will become employees of Harry Winston as part of the transaction.

BHP Billiton Diamonds and Specialty Products president, Tim Cutt, said: “We are very proud of Ekati’s track record and the substantial value it has created for the region and our shareholders.

“The mine’s success is a credit to the people who work there‚ at Yellowknife and with the marketing team in Antwerp. Harry Winston has long experience in the Canadian diamond industry and their commitment to study further development at Ekati could help extend the mine’s contribution to northern Canada for many years to come.”

BHP announced last year that it was considering pulling out of diamonds. It has also sold off its majority stake in the Chidliak project in Canada.

Harry Winston has said that Ekati’s production in the next two years is expected to be lower than the average achieved over the last five years, but should to return to higher levels as the mine transitions to higher grade but lower carat value ore.