Canada's frigid north a diamond miner's paradise

Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:30pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Cameron French

DIAVIK MINE, Northwest Territories (Reuters) - Once a hotbed of gold mining, Canada's far north is now unearthing riches from a different precious commodity: diamonds.

At the Diavik mine, just over 130 miles south of the Arctic Circle, a 650-foot deep crater pierces a frozen-white tundra, yielding some of the purest diamond deposits known.

"They're among the three best pipes in the world, by value per tonne," spokesman Tom Hoefer said of the kimberlite pipes -- vertical columns of diamond-bearing rock -- the mine is currently working.

Hoefer relates a story -- true, he says -- of a drill that was pulled from the ground with a sizable diamond stuck right on the bit.

It is a far cry from the Klondike gold rush in neighboring Yukon territory, which drew tens of thousands of prospectors over three years starting in 1896.

The Diavik mine is located on an island in icy pure Lac de Gras, a lake in Northwest Territories. The lake has been diked and partially drained to open access to the ore below.

Power is generated on-site and supplies are trucked in on an ice road that's open barely 10 weeks a year. (For a separate story on the ice road, click on.) Temperatures are so low that truck axles can suddenly become brittle and snap.

But the result is worth the challenges and costs. The mine produces clear, white stones of jewelry rather than industrial quality and yields are about 3 carats per tonne, three times the industry average.   Continued...

 
<p>An aerial view of an open pit mine is seen at the Diavik diamond mine, south of the Arctic Circle in Canada's Northwest Territories, February 13, 2008. Once a hotbed of gold mining, Canada's far north is now unearthing riches from a different precious commodity - diamonds. Picture taken February 13, 2008. REUTERS/Cameron French</p>