Argyle has been an open pit mine for more than 25 years, and is now transitioning to an underground mine to access the diamonds at depth.
Following extensive feasibility studies, the Rio Tinto Board approved the development of a unique block cave to be constructed beneath the open pit. This will be the first block cave mine in Western Australia, and one of only a few in Australia.
From 2013, operations in the open pit will begin to wind down as Argyle transitions to a fully operational underground mine. At full production the underground mine will generate around nine million tonnes of ore per annum and approximately 20 million carats of diamonds per year, over the life of the block cave.
The underground mine is expected to extend the life of the mine until at least 2020. The extended mine life will generate enduring benefits for the Kimberley region, building on Argyle's significant contribution to economic development over the past quarter of a century.
For more information on Argyle's underground mine, see the Argyle Diamonds Underground Mine Facts at a Glance.
The Argyle Diamond Mine sits on the Kimberley Plateau, a region rich in geological history and diamond-bearing lamproite ore.
The Argyle Diamond Mine traces its history back to 1972 when Ashton Mining Ltd, an Australian company, began diamond exploration in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Argyle currently operates an open pit mine and a processing plant which runs every day of the year.
Argyle is currently completing construction of the first block cave mine in Western Australia. The technologically advanced underground mine will reach full production in 2014, and will extend Argyle's mine life to at least 2020. The underground mine is expected to produce, on average, 20 million carats per year over the life of the block cave mine.
The process plant at the Argyle Diamond Mine is one of the most efficient in the world, able to process up to 10 million tonnes of ore per annum.
Over 791 million carats of diamonds have been produced at the Argyle Diamond Mine since it began production in 1983.
The future of mining at Argyle, and plans for the development of an underground mine beyond 2010
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