Mines Actively Producing in the NWT and Nunavut

EKATI™ Diamond Mine, NWT

The Ekati Diamond Mine (named after the Tlicho word meaning ‘fat lake’) is Canada’s first surface and underground diamond mine.  It officially began production in October 1998, following extensive exploration and development work dating back to 1981.  Like Diavik, the Ekati mine site is located in the Lac de Gras region of the Northwest Territories, approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife.

The Ekati mine is renowned for the premium gem quality diamonds it produces.  The largest gem quality diamond produced to date at the mine is the 78 carat Ekati Spirit, which was discovered in 2010 and sold at auction in 2011.   Cumulative production to January 2016 has totalled approximately 63 million carats. 

The Company operates the Ekati Diamond Mine in which it owns a controlling interest.  Over the mine’s early years, production was focused on six open pits and two underground operations.  The current Reserves Base Case Mine Plan is based on production from six kimberlite pipes:  Misery Main, Pigeon, Sable, Lynx and Jay open pits, and Koala underground operations.    Currently, Koala, Misery Main and Pigeon pipes are being mined.  Mining has not yet commenced at the Sable, Jay and Lynx pipes.   In addition, the Misery South and Southwest satellite material is being excavated as part of the Misery Main mining operations.   This material is being stockpiled separately and is planned to be processed through the Ekati plant as a supplement to the Reserve Base Case Mine Plan, which we refer to as the Operating Base Case Mine Plan.  The Ekati process plant has the capacity to process 4.3 million tonnes per year.  Additional feed from Coarse Ore Rejects will be used to supplement mined ore.  This material is not included in the reserves or resources and is therefore incremental to production.

Jay was approved for construction by the Company in July 2016 and is the most significant undeveloped deposit at Ekati due to its large size and high grade and extends the mine life by approximately 10 years beyond the current projected closure in 2023 to 2033.  The Company’s timetable for the development of Jay assumes early works permitting will be completed in 2016 with the start of road construction in 2017, dike construction in 2018-2020, dewatering and start of pre-stripping in 2021, and mining and processing of Jay kimberlite by late 2022. 

As of January 31, 2016, the Ekati Mine (excluding the Jay pipe) is reported to contain 31.5 million carats of probable reserves in the Core Zone and 0.8 million carats of probable reserves in the Buffer Zone for a total of 32.2 million carats of total probable reserves (on a 100% basis).  As at March 31, 2016, the Jay Pipe at the Ekati Mine is reported to contain 78.6 million carats of total probable reserves (on a 100% basis).

(Source: Dominion Diamond Corp website, August 2016)


Diavik Diamond Mine, NWT

The Diavik Diamond Mine is located in one of the most remote and forbidding places in the world - 220 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle and on the bed of a vast northern lake, Lac de Gras. A single road, built out of ice and crossing frozen lakes, connects the mine with other operations and Yellowknife, capital of Canada's Northwest Territories.

The construction of open pit and underground mining operations and related infrastructure are engineering feats on a grand scale. Open-pit mine construction included the building of rockfill dikes to hold the frigid waters of Lac de Gras at bay. Not only did the extremely harsh climatic conditions present significant construction challenges, but nothing was allowed to blemish the pristine waters of the lake during its building.

Diamonds were first discovered in the Lac de Gras region in the early 1990s, and construction of the Diavik Diamond Mine completed in 2003. The mine has a current footprint of 10.5 square kilometres.

Open pit mining of the A154 South, A154 North and A418 pipes has concluded. Diavik is currently underground mining these three ore bodies.

In November 2014, development of a fourth pipe, called A21, was approved. Open-pit mining of A21 will require a rockfill dike; A21 dike construction will take approximately four years with A21 production expected to commence in late 2018.

Since production began in 2003, Diavik has produced approximately 90 million carats of high quality rough diamonds. The majority of Diavik’s product is gem-quality white stones, which are sold to select diamontaires.

Diavik's current mine plan has production continuing to 2023.

The Diavik Diamond Mine includes four ore bodies (A21, A154 South, A154 North, and A418 pipes) with total mine life of 16 to 22 years (currently in year 14).

In December 2015, Diavik unveiled one of the largest rough gem-quality diamonds ever produced in Canada ? the 187.7-carat Diavik Foxfire. For more on the Foxfire, including stunning images, and for other recent feature articles on our operations, click here.

(Source: Diavik mine website, January 2016)


Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine, NWT

The Gahcho Kue diamond mine will be officially opened in September 2016, and is expected to reach commercial production late in 2016. 

Gahcho Kue is located at Kennady Lake, 63° 26’ 29.5” latitude and 109° 10’ 36” longitude, about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife and 80 km southeast of De Beers’ Snap Lake Mine in the Northwest Territories.

The mine area is approximately 1,200 hectares, and average annual production is expected to be ~4.5 million carats. 

The Gahcho Kué Project is a joint venture between De Beers Canada Inc. (51%) and Mountain Province Diamonds Inc.(49%). De Beers, as the operator, is committed to building this new mine to high safety standards and with deep respect for the land. The total capital cost is approximately C$1 billion. 

Gahcho Kué will be an open pit operation, mining three kimberlite pipes in sequence: 5034, Hearne and Tuzo. During construction, the workforce will peak at approximately 700 workers. Once in operation, about 400 De Beers workers will be required to operate the mine during the approximately 12 year life of mine.

De Beers is committed to sustainable development in local communities and has signed six Impact Benefit Agreements (IBA) for Gahcho Kué Mine including:

  • North Slave Métis Alliance (July 2013);
  • Tlicho Government (January 2014);
  • Yellowknives Dene First Nation (February 2014);
  • Lutsel K’e and Kache Dene First Nation (July 2014)
  • NWT Métis Nation (December 2014); and,
  • Deninu Kué First Nation (December 2014).

(Source: De Beers website, August 2016) 


Snap Lake Diamond Mine, NWT (Note: the mine was put on care and maintenance in early December 2015 due to low diamond prices)

The Snap Lake Mine, De Beers’ first mine outside of Africa, is unique in Canada. Built on the shore of Snap Lake, 220 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, the mine is Canada’s first completely underground diamond mine. The Snap Lake ore body is a 2.5 metre thick dyke that dips an average of 12-15° from the northwest shore down under the lake. It is unlike most diamond-bearing kimberlite deposits which are known as ‘pipes’ due to their conical or carrot-like shape.

By December 31, 2014 $2.2 billion had been spent on construction and operation of the mine. Of that total, $1.5 billion has been spent with NWT-based contractors and suppliers, including $863 million with Aboriginal businesses or Joint Ventures.

The mine commenced commercial production on January 16, 2008 and the Official Mine Opening took place on July 25, 2008. It was placed into care and maintenance on December 4, 2015.

De Beers Canada has signed four Impact Benefit Agreements (IBA) for the Snap Lake Mine including:

  • Yellowknives Dene First Nation (November 2005);
  • Tlicho Government (March 2006);
  • North Slave Métis Alliance (August 2006); and,
  • Lutsel K’e and Kache Dene First Nation (April 2007).

(Source: De Beers website, January 2016)


CanTung Tungsten Mine, NWT (Note: the mine closed in November 2015 due to low tungsten prices) 

The Cantung Mine is located in the Nahanni area of western Northwest Territories,Canada, approximately 306 km by road northeast of Watson Lake,Yukon, close to the Yukon border. The mine is a primary producer of tungsten concentrate from open pit and underground mines. It was opened in 1962.

Cantung is a primary producer of tungsten concentrates from underground operations.

Currently, the major features and facilities associated with Cantung are as follows: the Cantung deposits, consisting of the Open Pit resource near surface, and the E Zone, underground; the physical plant site including an underground mine, a small open pit, process plant, diesel power plant, workshops, warehouses, administration buildings, a town site and single status accommodation, and an airstrip; and waste rock storage facilities and a tailings storage facility.

On June 9, 2015, North American Tungsten (NATC) filed for Court protection under the CCAA. In accordance with the Operating Plan, the mill at the Cantung mine site was shut down on October 26, 2015, and transition of the Cantung mine to care and maintenance was expected to be completed on or about November 18, 2015.

(Source: North American Tungsten website, 2015)


Meadowbank Gold Mine, Nunavut

The Meadowbank mine is located in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, about 2,600 kilometres northwest of Toronto. It is 300 kilometres west of Hudson Bay and 110 kilometres by road north of Baker Lake, the nearest community. Meadowbank was Agnico Eagle’s largest gold producer in 2015, and has 0.9 million ounces of gold in proven and probable reserves* (11 million tonnes at 2.72 g/t). Meadowbank depends on the annual, warm-weather sealift by barge from Hudson Bay to Baker Lake for transportation of bulk supplies and heavy equipment. An all-weather road links Baker Lake to the site. An on-site airstrip is used for shipping food and goods and for transporting employees, who work on a fly-in, fly-out basis.

Mine commissioning and first gold production from the Portage open pit began in early 2010. The mine is expected to produce 305,000 ounces of gold in 2016, and to average 238,000 ounces gold from 2017 to 2018. The life of mine is expected to end in 2018. The company is actively exploring the Amaruq deposit with the goal of potentially developing the deposit as a satellite operation to Meadowbank.

(Source: Agnico Eagle website, August 2016. For more information on the AEM’s Nunavut projects, click here. For career opportunities, click here, and for business opportunities, click here.)


Mary River Iron Mine, Nunavut 

The Mary River Project is located on northern Baffin Island, in the Nunavut Territory, in the Canadian Arctic. Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation (Baffinland)’s initial Project consisted of mining iron ore from the reserve at Deposit No. 1 at a production rate of 18 Million tonnes per year (Mt/a). The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) issued the Project Certificate for this Project on December 28, 2012.

The Mary River mine site is one of the most northern and richest in iron ore in the world. It consists of nine plus high-grade lump and fine iron ore deposits that can be mined, crushed and screened into marketable products and then shipped through our dedicated port facility. The mine and port are now fully operational; Baffinland shipped its first iron ore to European Markets in July, 2015. Due to the quality of the ore, no processing is required before shipping it to market, reducing overall impact to the environment and keeping production costs low. Baffinland has adopted a phased development strategy for this resource which is critical to prudent, reduced-risk development.

With the introduction of the Early Revenue Phase (ERP), the Mary River Project consists of mining iron ore from the reserve at Deposit No. 1 at a production rate of 21.5 Million tonnes per year (Mt/a). Initially, for the ERP, 3.5 Mtpa of iron ore will be mined, transported by trucks to Milne Port and shipped to markets from Milne Port during the open water season. As global markets improve for the prices of iron ore, the Company intends to proceed with the construction and operation of the larger Approved Project which includes the construction, operation, closure, and reclamation of a large scale mining operation (open-pit mine) and associated infrastructure for extraction, a railway link for the transportation of ore to Steensby Port, and, the construction and operation of a year around port facilities on Steensby Inlet for the shipment of iron ore. Once Steensby Port and the railway are operational, Baffinland expects that it will continue to ship up to 3.5 MTPA of ore via Milne Port for the duration of the Project. The environmental and socio economic impacts assessments for the Early Revenue Phase have accounted for the shipment of 3.5 MTPA of ore from Milne Port for the life of the Project (21 years).

There are 2 main project locations for the Early Revenue Phase (ERP) – the mine site at Mary River and Milne Port north of the mine which is connected via a tote road. Development will occur at the Mine Site, sufficient to support the mining of 3.5 Mtpa of iron ore. The Tote Road will be upgraded to enable safe and efficient transportation of ore by truck from the Mine site to Milne Port. Milne Port will be fully developed and will accommodate 3.5 million tonnes ore stockpile, an ore dock, maintenance facility and associated infrastructure for the operation of the port facilities.

(Source: Baffinland Iron Mines website, 2016)