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One year of Gahcho Kue
Mine to dig 35 million tonnes of kimberlite over 12 years in search for diamonds

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Friday, September 15, 2017

It's been a year and the shine isn't off the diamond yet at Gahcho Kue.

NNSL photograph

Pit 5034 is currently the only one of Gahcho Kue's planned three pits in operation right now. The next, Hearne, will go online in November with the third breaking ground next year. - Jessica Davey-Quantick/NNSL photo

A joint venture between DeBeers Canada and Mountain Province Diamonds, the diamond mine has been open officially for one year as of Sept. 20.

Gahcho Kue is located 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife,

After 20 years of anticipation and set-up, the mine entered commercial production on March 1, with the first diamonds being recovered last June.

"So how did Gahcho Kue do? We actually started off quite well, and then we struggled as we got into the winter," said Allan Rodel, head of the Gahcho Kue project with De Beers Canada.

He said the winter struggle came thanks to growing pains, caused by new technology and staff, but the group managed to stick the landing once former Snap Lake employees came on board.

"We had over 100 people that came across from Snap Lake," said Rodel. "They are skilled in the technology that we were using so we've gained."

In Gahcho Kue's first year, 628 people worked at the site, 71 of them Indigenous. NWT residents make up 27 per cent of staff.

In 2016, the mine spent $1.8 million with NWT and Indigenous companies to support the construction and commissioning of the mine, according to De Beers.

De Beers also entered its first long-term supplier contract at the site, awarding the camp's catering contract to Bouwa Whee Catering, part of the Det'on Cho Corporation.

Gahcho Kue is expected to operate until 2024. Currently, only one of the eventual three open-pit mines, 5034, is open, with Hearne coming online in late November and Tuzo getting underway next year. The three pits are expected to produce a combined 35 million tonnes of kimberlite ore in the search for diamonds.

"Most pits look like an ice cream cone or a carrot," said Tom Ormsby, head of external and corporate affairs with De Beers Canada, explaining the deeper you dig, the scanter the finds, another pit needs to be ready to go.

"You want to keep the process plant running at full capacity."

He's hoping the mine lasts longer than 12 years. Dominion Diamond recently announced that new feasibility studies could extend the life of Ekati mine an extra nine years, until 2042.

Ormsby said there's always the potential for similar extensions at Gahcho Kue in the future.

"That's always the goal, right?" he said.

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