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Argyle Diamond Mine, Kimberley, Australia

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Argyle Diamond Mine, Kimberley, Australia

Argyle Diamond Mine, Kimberley, Australia

The Argyle mine located Kimberley region north-east Western Australia world's largest single producer diamonds. mine lies 550km south-west Darwin air. region remote rugged hot temperatures 40°C wet season October March.

When production 1985 workforce Perth-based operating two-week 'fly-in fly-out' basis – requiring construction camp infrastructure support operation. recent years however programme localisation underway workers Kimberley.

Argyle operated Argyle Diamond Mines Joint Venture wholly owned Rio Tinto 2002. initial lease expired 2004 renewed.

In September 2010 Rio Tinto announced investment $803m project. used ramp-up underground block cave extend mine's 2019. mine fully operational 2013.

Geology reserves

"In 2005 mine processed 9.0Mt lamproite recover total 30.5Mct."

The discovery Argyle orebody marked commercial diamond occurrence identified not hosted kimberlite. AK1 pipe Argyle instead consists olivine lamproite diamonds eroded placer (alluvial) deposits nearby.

The deposit discovered 1979 Ashton joint venture following 12 years exploration various companies area. discovery alluvial diamonds led directly source AK1 pipe.

At 2009 total measured indicated inferred resources AK1 pipe 40Mt grade 3.6ct/t. Proven probable reserves (including pit underground) totalled 85Mt grading 2.1ct/t containing 178Mct.

Mine development

Development Argyle two-stage process. Alluvial diamond 1983 1985 AK1 pipe into production. then principal source ore supported lesser amounts alluvial material.

Argyle operates conventional open-pit mine lamproite waste being drilled blasted being loaded shovel-and-truck operation. mine operates Bucyrus P&H Tamrock Driltech rotary drill rigs O&K RH 200 hydraulic excavators fleet Caterpillar 789B Rig MT4400 haul trucks supported Caterpillar loaders bulldozers ancillary equipment. mine operation monitored vehicle movements controlled using Modular Systems' dispatch system uses global positioning system (GPS) accurate location drills plant. Contract used alluvial ores.

Much waste highly abrasive quartzite Argyle long-term user Skega dump system its haul truck fleet. uses suspended reinforced rubber liner conventional steel plating hauler body.

Ore processing

Argyle's processing uses crushing screening heavy-medium separation (HMS) X-ray sorter diamond recovery flowsheet. 3mm forms feed heavy-medium separation circuit -1mm material rejected tailings.

Two-stage heavy medium cyclones specific gravity 3.0 heart separation process material denser forming diamond-bearing concentrate. X-ray sorting separates diamonds residual waste HMS concentrate recovered stones being acid washed sorting shipment.


Since coming into operation Argyle produced 670Mct diamonds average stripping ratio pit around 7t waste being moved tonne mined. Peak production 1994 42.8Mct. pit lack manoeuvrability bottom hinder operations.

In 2009 mine produced 10.5Mct diamonds. mine produces volume world's pink diamonds.

The future

The company expected lamproite 'pipe' narrows continues greater depth making continued access methods uneconomic. 2001 company looking option developing underground mine – launching pre-feasibility investigate alternatives transition strategies.

The results led 2003 approval funding feasibility block cave underground mine construction exploratory decline. completed 2005 December decision ahead underground mine.

"The mine produces 90% 95% world's pink diamonds."

Work A$1.6bn development schedule. January 2009 however Macmahon Holding primary contractor Argyle Diamond site announced underground diamond activities slowed due global economic downturn.

Production capacity predicted average around 20Mct/y compared current long-term average 34Mct/y.

In addition shift underground working company process localising its workforce Kimberley aiming 80% based 2010 – Aboriginal. forms major corporate step-change described 'reassessing Argyle's relationship mines'.

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