Diamond Mining in Canada

by

Erin Allen



Image taken from:
www.diavik.ca/Photos/2005/DSC_0008.html,
Diavik Photo Gallery 2005,
www.diavik.ca/Photos2005.htm

http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340/students/allen

This webpage project was created for a gemstones and gemology course in the 2006 spring semester at Emporia State University. The assignment was to learn webpage creation, as well as present a summary of our knowledge regarding gemstones and their valuable properties and uses, as well as needed references.


Table of Contents

Introduction

The history of diamond mining in Canada only goes back to the late 1980's. The first explorations were made by Chuck Fipke in Canada's Northwest Territories (ekati.bhpbilliton.com/docs/Discovery.pdf). This region is littered with kimberlite pipes that are commonly full of diamonds. He was unsuccessful until April 1990 when he collected samples that lead to a drilling expedition the next year that produced 81 diamonds. This discovery would lead to North America's largest staking rush in history with over fifty million acres claimed. The site where Fipke would become Canada's first diamond mine, Ekati.

Mining in Canada's northlands is very difficult due to the permafrost that covers the region, the extremely low temperatures, the lack of sunlight parts of the year, and the isolation. Transportation to many of the mines is strictly by air most of the year but there are ice roads that are used for ground transportation for a few months each year. Employees have to live, eat, and play in the facilities that were built on the mine's campus.


An ice road leading away from a mine.
Image taken from:
www.diavik.ca/iceroad.htm.

Contents

There are five major diamond mines in Canada: The Ekati, Diavit, and Snap Lake mines in the Northwest Territories, as well as the Vctor mine in Ontario and Jericho mine in Nunavut. Only three of the five are currently in production but the others are soon to follow. Once all of the mines are in production they are expected to push Canada into the number three spot of diamond producers worldwide. They will be behind Botswana and Russia.

The Mines

Ekati Mine (Northwest Territory): The Ekati mine is located 120 miles south of the Artic Circle, 100 miles north of the tree line, and 300 miles north of Yellowknife. It was the first mine to be opened in 1998 and it is owned by the BHP diamond company. The average production of this mine over its expected 20 year life span will peak at approximately three to five million carats a year. It will account for four percent of the world's total production.

Diavik Mine (Northwest Territory): The Diavik Mine is located on the same lake as the Ekati Mine, but on a 20 square km island called East Island. The mine started production in 2003 under Aber Diamond Corporation and Diavik Diamond Mines, Inc. Over its 20 year expected life span this mine will peak at six to eight million carats a year and will account for five percent of the world's diamonds.

Snap Lake Mine (Northwest Territory): The Snap Lake Mine is located 220 km northeast of Yellowknife and just south of the tree line. Snap Lake is owned by De Beers and will begin production in 2007. The life span on this mine is also 20 years. It is expected to produce one and a half million carats a year.

Victor Mine (Ontario): The Victor Mine is located in the James Bay Lowlands, 90 km from the First Nation community Attawapiskat. This mine had to be approved by the people of the Attawapiskat tribe, before any plans could be made for production. They approved construction by an 85% to 15% vote and construction on the mine began earlier this year. This mine is operated by De Beers and thus, their second diamond mine in Canada.

Jericho Mine (Nunavut): The Jericho Mine is located on the north end of Contwoyto Lake in West Kitikmeot. This location is 420 km north-northeast of Yellowknife and 170 km north of the Ekati mine. This mine opened in 2006 and only has an eight year life expectancy. Over this life span the mine is expected to produce three million carats. It is owned by the Tahera Diamond Corporation and has arranged an agreement with the Tiffany Company.

Environmental Impacts

All of these companies have taken every possible opportunity to make sure they comply with the environmental codes of these regions. The Canadian mining industry was the first in the world to develop and adopt a national environmental policy. Many of the mines also have on-site conservationists that ensure environmental safety year round. The mines that had to drain lakes to excavate the kimberlite pipes created drainage canals to ensure the well being of the native fish. Another consideration that was made was the migratory routes for birds and caribou. This had to be planned out because the Inuit people of these regions depend on these animals for their survival. The many companies have tried to employ as many people from the local communities as they could and make a positive impact.


A drained lake becomes an open Panda Pit mine at Ekati.
Image left taken from:
ekati.bhpbilliton.com/repository/newsImages/imageLibrary.asp.
Both images available at Ekati Professional Development, www.edumine.com/ekati/.

The Future

Although many of these mines will be out of production in 20 years I suspect that if production continues to go well more mines will be built in other regions of Canada's northlands. A lot of effort has gone into creating a sustainable diamond industry. It is thought that by integrating economic, social, and environmental goals the diamond companies will be able to sustain a quality lifestyle for Canada both present and future.


References and Links

Ekati Diamond Mine, ekati.bhpbilliton.com/default.asp
Diavik Diamond Mine, www.diavik.ca/index.htm
De Beers Canada, www.debeerscanada.com
Jericho Diamond Mine, tahera.com/jericho_diamond.html
Canada: A Diamond Producing Nation, www.nrcan.gc.ca/mms/diam/index_e.htm. View the Formation of Diamonds animation!


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Comments and questions can be directed to E. Allen. Date the webpage was created 29 April, 2006; last update 2 May, 2006. © 2006 Erin Allen. All rights reserved.