Mines Actively Producing in the NWT and Nunavut
The Ekati Diamond Mine (named after the Tlicho word meaning ‘fat lake’) is Canada’s first surface and underground diamond mine.
The Ekati diamond mine officially began production in October 1998, following extensive exploration and development work dating back to 1981. The Ekati 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 a 186-carat diamond from the Pigeon pit, which was recovered and sold in 2016. Cumulative production to January 2017 has totalled approximately 67.8 million carats.
Arctic Canadian Diamond Company owns a controlling interest in Ekati and is the operator… Over the mine’s early years, production was focused on six open pits (Panda, Koala, Misery, Fox, Koala North, and Beartooth) and three underground operations (Panda, Koala and Koala North).
Development on the Pigeon open pit commenced in 2014 followed by Lynx in 2015 and Sable in 2017. Mining at Lynx was completed in 2020, so that as of February 2021 when Arctic assumed ownership of Ekati, mining operations were focused at Pigeon and Sable open pits and the Misery Underground Mine.
The current mine life of Ekati, including the addition of a new open pit development at Point Lake, runs to 2028. Exploration and project evaluation activities are ongoing, including the development of an innovative mining technique that could be used to extract the deeper resources from the Sable, Fox and Point Lake kimberlites. If successful, the mining of these deeper portions of existing orebodies would extend the life of Ekati for many years to come.
(Source: Arctic Canadian Diamond Company website, January 2022)
About 200 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, at the bottom of Lac de Gras in Canada's Northwest Territories, sit some of the world’s most beautiful and sought-after diamonds.
The Diavik Diamond Mine, which Rio Tinto owns and manages, comprises four diamond-bearing pipes that we mine using a combination of open pit and underground mining. Diavik diamonds are stunning white gems, produced to the highest possible standards of safety and integrity.
Innovation at Diavik
The design, construction and operation of Diavik is a story of success on a grand scale, in part because it is in one of the most challenging environments in the world: the sub-arctic tundra, one of the world’s pristine environments with one of the most delicate ecosystems. We are committed to protecting the biodiversity of this unique landscape.
And, through innovation, world class engineering technologies and partnering with Indigenous people, we are able to mine some of the world’s most ethical diamonds with a minimal impact on the local land, water, and wildlife.
For example, we have developed world class engineering technology and techniques to hold back the waters of Lac de Gras (to reach the diamond-bearing pipes at the bottom of the lake) in a way that minimises disturbance. Once we have built the embankment, creating a pool of water within the lake, we pump millions of litres from this pool back into the lake, monitoring water quality and fish stocks.
Our focus on minimising our environmental impact was also inherent in our construction of an award-winning wind farm that generates significant renewable energy for Diavik’s operation. It is one of the largest hybrid wind-diesel power facilities at a remote mine site and, since coming on line in 2012, the windfarm has offset Diavik’s diesel use by over 28 million litres and reduced the overall greenhouse gas emissions by 75,000 tonnes.
All mines have a finite life cycle and Diavik has planned for its closure from the outset. The buildings on site have been designed to be removed without a trace. And when mining ends, the embankments will be reclaimed and lake water will flow back into the open pits.
In 2018, we opened a fourth diamond pipe, known as A21, at the Diavik Diamond Mine. The new open pit pipe will provide an important source of incremental supply over the next four years to sustain production levels at the mine. The A21 pipe is located adjacent to Diavik’s existing mining operations at Lac de Gras. First ore was delivered in March following a four-year construction period and an investment of approximately $350 million, shared by Rio Tinto and joint venture partner Dominion Diamond Corporation. This investment to sustain production levels at Diavik reflects the strong outlook we see for the diamond industry.
Our focus on minimising our environmental impact was also inherent in our construction of an award-winning wind farm that generates enough renewable energy to power Diavik’s underground mine. It is one of the largest hybrid wind-diesel power facilities at a remote mine site and, since coming on line in 2012, the windfarm has offset Diavik’s diesel use by over 26 million litres and reduced the overall greenhouse gas emissions by 73,000 tonnes.
All mines have a finite life cycle and Diavik has planned for its closure from the outset. The buildings on site have been designed to be removed without a trace. And when mining ends, the embankments will be reclaimed and lake water will flow back into the open pit.
(Source: Diavik mine website, January 2022)
Gahcho Kué, the world’s largest new diamond mine, opened on September 20, 2016. It is a fly-in/fly-out remote mine site on the Canadian tundra just south of the Arctic Circle, about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.
The mine is a joint venture between De Beers Group (51% - the Operator) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49%). Additional resources discovered in 2018 resulted in the life of mine extension to 2030. The open-pit mine will comprise three pits over its current 14-year life of mine. Resource evaluation work continues on a previously unknown kimberlite, Wilson, discovered in 2019. Other brownfield exploration work continues.
The mine uses an ice road during a six- to eight-week period each winter to resupply the site. Trucks bring in key items such as fuel, parts, mining equipment and other non-perishable materials that can be safely shipped in temperatures that routinely drop below -40 degrees Celsius during the 30-hour journey to the site.
Between 2015 and 2019, Gahcho Kué generated 3,116 person years of employment, including 1,100 to NWT residents. Of the C$1.7 billion spent to build and operate the mine through 2019, 62% or C$1.1 billion was spent with NWT companies, including C$267 million with NWT Indigenous businesses. Through 2019, close to 21 million carats of diamonds have been recovered (100% basis).
Gahcho Kué means ‘place of the big rabbits or hares’ in the local Chipewyan language. Mountain Province Diamonds discovered the first kimberlite deposit, 5034, in 1995. De Beers Group joined the joint venture in 1997 and De Beers Exploration discovered three other deposits, including the Hearne and Tuzo kimberlites. Permits to build and operate the mine were received in 2014.
During its first few years of operation, Gahcho Kué has received numerous awards, a few of which are listed below:
- 2020 NWT and NU Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (NAPEG) Corporate Community Service Award
- 2019 National John T. Ryan Award for safety
- 2019 Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce Workplace Health & Safety Award
- 2019 NWT Region Mine Rescue Competition Overall Surface Winner
- 2019 National Western Region Mine Rescue Competition Overall Surface Winner
- 2017 Viola R. MacMillan Award for project development from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
- 2017 Hatch-CIM Mining & Minerals Project Development Safety Award
- 2016 Gold Project Construction and Engineering from the Project Management Institute
De Beers Group is committed to sustainable development in regions near its mines and has signed six Impact Benefit Agreements for Gahcho Kué with local Indigenous communities as well as a socio-economic agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories.
(Source: De Beers website, January 2022)
Nechalacho Rare Earth Element Mine, Northwest Territories
Vital Metals commenced rare earths production at Nechalacho in Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) in 2021, making Vital the first rare earths producer in Canada and only the second in North America.
Nechalacho hosts a world-class resource of 94.7Mt at 1.46% REO (measured, indicated and inferred). Nechalacho’s North T Zone hosts a high-grade resource of 101,000 tonnes at 9.01% LREO (2.2% NdPr), making it one of the highest grade rare earths deposits in the world.
Mining commenced from the North T starter pit in June 2021. Ore was crushed and sorted on site, then the beneficiated material was transported to Vital's Saskatoon rare earth extraction plant later in the year.
Vital has commenced drilling to define a mine plan for Stage 2 which will involve development of the larger Tardiff deposit. This drilling aims to develop Nechalacho as a larger scale, longer life rare earths project.
Vital aims to produce a minimum of 5,000 tonnes of contained REO by 2025 at the project, and has signed an off-take agreement with Norwegian company REEtec for Stage 1 production with the supply of 1,000t REO (ex-Cerium)/yr for an initial five-year period.
More than $120 million has been spent by previous owners on drilling, permitting and project development at Nechalacho, which includes a 40-person camp and airstrip.
Vital aims to be the largest independent supplier of clean mixed rare earth feedstock outside China.
The Meadowbank - Amaruq Gold Mine Complex, Nunavut
The Meadowbank open-pit gold mine in the Kivalliq District of Nunavut — approximately 300 km west of Hudson Bay and 110 km by road north of Baker Lake — was Agnico Eagle’s first Low Arctic mine. The discovery and development of the Amaruq satellite deposit 50 km away has extended the life of the Meadowbank Complex by supplying a new source of ore to the existing Meadowbank mill.
The Meadowbank Complex refers to the processing facilities and infrastructure at the Meadowbank mine site combined with the mining and infrastructure at the Amaruq site. The 118,862-hectare Amaruq property is located approximately 50 km northwest of the Meadowbank mine site, with a 64-kilometre road between the two sites completed in August 2017 and widened for ore haulage in November 2018.
The Meadowbank mine camp can host more than 500 employees at a time. The Amaruq camp can host an additional 350 employees.
The Meadowbank gold mine achieved commercial production in March 2010 and produced its three millionth ounce of gold in 2018. The final year of production at the Meadowbank mine was 2019, with mining operations at the Complex gradually transitioning to Amaruq, which today provides the sole source of mill feed. The Company declared commercial production at the Whale Tail pit at Amaruq on September 30, 2019.
Discovered in 2013, Amaruq hosts the Whale Tail gold deposit as well as the V Zone (IVR Zone), Mammoth Zone and several other targets. At December 31, 2020, the Amaruq property was estimated to contain open pit proven and probable mineral reserves of 2.3 million ounces of gold (19.9 million tonnes grading 3.64 g/t), underground probable mineral reserves of 564,000 ounces of gold (3.3 million tonnes grading 5.29 g/t), as well as substantial open pit and underground indicated and inferred mineral resources.
The Amaruq mining operation uses the existing infrastructure at the Meadowbank mine, including mining equipment, mill, tailings facilities, camp and airstrip. Additional infrastructure has been built at the Amaruq site, including a truck shop/warehouse, fuel storage and a second camp facility. Amaruq ore is transported using long haul off-road type trucks to the mill at the Meadowbank facilities for processing.
The life of mine plan for the Whale Tail pit calls for the production of approximately 2.5 million ounces of gold between 2019 and 2026.
The V Zone pit began pre-stripping activities in the third quarter of 2020 and achieved commercial production on December 31, 2020.
In February 2021, the Board approved the construction of the Amaruq underground project and first gold production is expected in early 2022. The objective is to mine higher-grade underground portions of the deposit in conjunction with the open pits.
(Source: Agnico Eagle website, January 2022.)
Baffinland’s Mary River Mine site on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, is one of the most northern mines in the world. It has among the richest iron ore deposits ever discovered, consisting of nine-plus high-grade iron ore deposits that can be mined, crushed, and screened into marketable products.
What makes Baffinland's operations different than many other mines is that we crush and screen the ore on site, and then ship it directly to markets – no concentrating or processing is needed, and therefore no tailings are produced.
In July 1962, Mary River’s high-grade iron ore – now known as Deposit No. 1 – was first noted by Murray Watts and Ron Sheardown. The two pilots were conducting an airborne exploration project prospecting across central and northern Baffin Island. In 1986, Baffinland started exploration and development on the property.
On April 29, 2014, the Federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada approved the positive recommendation by the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB).
The original plans outlined the development of an 18-million-tonnes-per-year (MTPY) operation, focused on mining Deposit No. 1. The project also included the development of a railway approximately 150 kilometres south to Steensby Inlet.
This gave Baffinland the go-ahead for the Early Revenue Phase (ERP) amendment to the Mary River Project involving the seasonal shipping of 3.5 million tons of iron ore from Milne Inlet on the north coast of Baffin Island.
In 2015, Baffinland began operations. With the development of the ERP, the Mary River Operation now consists of mining iron ore from the reserve at Deposit No. 1. Baffinland then transports ore from the mine by trucks to Milne Port and ships it to markets from the Milne Port during the open water season.
In 2018, Baffinland received approval to go to six MTPY.
There are two main operating locations – the mine site at Mary River and Milne Port north of the mine. The two sites are connected via a tote road. The tote road has been upgraded to enable safe and efficient transportation of ore by truck from the Mine site to Milne Port. Milne Port has been fully developed to accommodate a 3.5 million-tonne ore stockpile, an ore dock, maintenance facility, and associated infrastructure for the operation of the port facilities.
The mine was developed by Baffinland using a phased approach and in accordance with agreements made with Inuit birthright corporations: Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), as well as the Government of Nunavut.
(Source: Baffinland Iron Mines website, January 2022)
The Hope Bay property is located in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut, approximately 685 km northeast of Yellowknife and 125 km southwest of Cambridge Bay. It has over 90 regional exploration targets across an 80 km greenstone belt. The property and operations are remote but not isolated, serviced by both a port and airstrip.
Hope Bay is located in an 80 km by 20 km Archean greenstone belt that has been explored by multiple companies over a period spanning more than 30 years. TMAC began producing gold in early 2017 from Doris, its first mine at Hope Bay, and processed gold at the Doris processing plant which originally had nameplate capacity of 1,000 tpd and expanded to 2,000 tpd midway through 2018.
On February 2, 2021, Agnico Eagle acquired TMAC Resources Inc., the operator of the Hope Bay property. The Company halted mining for a comprehensive evaluation and optimization study of the entire property before resuming mining in the near future.
The Company expects to spend $16.2 million in 2021 for 69,600 metres of drilling at the Hope Bay property, including $5.5 million for 29,800 metres of delineation drilling to support production at the Doris mine and $10.7 million for 39,800 metres of drilling on exploration targets around the Doris, Madrid and Boston deposits and other targets along the belt. The Company is currently evaluating exploration priorities and metres allocated on each program and may adjust the allocation during the course of 2021. As a result, the Hope Bay mine was not included in the Company’s production, cost or capital expenditure guidance for 2021, nor included in its year-end 2020 mineral reserve and mineral resource estimates.
(Source: Agnico Eagle website, January 2022)
The Meliadine mine in the Kivalliq District of Nunavut is Agnico Eagle’s second mine in Canada’s Low Arctic, opening nine years after the Meadowbank mine.
The Meliadine mine is located near the western shore of Hudson Bay in the Kivalliq District of Nunavut, about 25 km north of Rankin Inlet and 290 km southeast of our Meadowbank mine. Meliadine includes seven gold deposits, six of which are part of the current mine plan. The 98,222-hectare property covers an 80-km-long greenstone belt.
Facilities at the Meliadine mine include the main camp and the exploration camp. The main camp is located approximately 1.8 km north of the Tiriganiaq deposit and began operation in 2017. It consists of 14 wings of modular trailers that can accommodate approximately 700 personnel.
Commercial production began at Meliadine on May 14, 2019. The Company anticipates that mining at Meliadine will be carried out through several underground mining operations and open pits over a mine life extending to 2032. There are numerous opportunities to create additional value at Meliadine, both at the mine and on the large regional land package.
(Source: Agnico Eagle website, January 2022)