Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia’s east Kimberley region has been mined out after 37 years of production.
With its reserves now depleted, Argyle employees, Traditional owners and local stakeholders held an event to transition Argyle from an operational mine to the first steps of its closure.
The closure process is expected to take about five years; it includes decommissioning and dismantling of the mine along with rehabilitation, plus a period of monitoring. A small workforce will remain on site to oversee final mining and production activities.
The Argyle ore body has been a single pipe known as AK1. Discovered in October 1979, the operation commenced alluvial work in 1983, open pit mining in 1985 and full underground operations in 2013.
Over its life span, the mine produced more than 865 million carats of rough diamonds, and earned the distinction of being the world’s largest producer of coloured diamonds. It was virutally the only source – very small but consistent, according to the miner – of rare pink diamonds.
“Fifty years ago there were very few people who believed there were diamonds in Australia – even fewer could have foreseen how the Argyle story would unfold,” said Arnaud Soirat, chief executive of copper and diamonds.
“Today Argyle’s influence stretches into many spheres and over many continents.”
GM Andrew Wilson said the asset’s new chapter will include a respectful closure and rehabilitation of the land, which will then be “handed back to its traditional custodians.”