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De Beers is moving to expand exploration at its Gahcho Kue diamond mine.

In a Dec. 31 submission to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, the miner indicated it would be exploring 11 targets of interest by late February. Split into two phases, the program will cost roughly $2.88 million, according to the submission. 

A drill rig sits at Gahcho Kué Mine as part of a brownfield drill program in April 2019. In the foreground, the boxes contain some of the drill core recovered as part of this program, according to De Beers spokesperson Terry Kruger.
Photo Courtesy of De Beers Group.

De Beers spokesperson Terry Kruger wrote over email that the program represented a continuation of recent years’ brownfield exploration at the site. Ultimately, he said, a successful program “could potentially lead to extending the life of operations – to put more carats into the mine plan.”

Drill results will help the miner determine if their target is kimberlite – a rock sometimes containing diamonds – which would then inform future exploration at the site. 

However, the results of the drilling won’t be finalized for a number of months, Currently that would rule out speculation on the program’s possible impacts on Gahcho Kue’s mine life. 

The move follows recent hints that De Beers could potentially expand mine life at Gahcho Kue. 

In November,  Erik Madsen, lead of corporate affairs with De Beers Canada, told the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board that “De Beers is not leaving … stay tuned as we will soon be back in front of this board for a licence amendment for Gahcho Kue mine in order to extend the mine life.

In July, Mountain Province Diamonds, which owns 49 per cent of Gahcho Kue, uncovered a deposit of kimberite there – the first discovery at the site in two decades. At the time, Stuart Brown, president and CEO of Mountain Province, said it was an indication of potentially discovering new kimberlites in the region. 

In production since 2017,  the $1.1 billion project is located 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife at Kennady Lake and employs about 267 NWT residents. It has three active pipes: 5034, Hearne and Tuzo.

Writing to News/North, Kruger didn’t elaborate on Madsen’s November comments, but said extending the mine’s life was an ongoing goal for De Beers.

“Gahcho Kue Mine represents a significant investment by De Beers Group and Mountain Province Diamonds and the mine is an important part of the Northwest Territories economy,” he wrote.

“Exploration work has been underway for a couple of years as we hope to identify additional resources that have the potential to extend the life of the mine.”

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Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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