The Argyle diamond mine
Rio Tinto owns and operates the Argyle diamond mine in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. The mine has been operating since 1983 and has produced more than 800million carats of rough diamonds. It is one of the world's largest supplier of diamonds and the world's largest supplier of natural coloured diamonds.
Located in the east Kimberley region in the remote north of Western Australia, the Argyle mine is one of the world's largest supplier of diamonds and is the world's largest producer of natural coloured diamonds.
Argyle mines a lamproite pipe (a form of diamond-bearing rock) known as the AK1 pipe and Argyle operated as an open pit mine from 1985 to 2013. The AK1 pipe continues at depth and in April 2013 the Argyle underground mine was officially opened. By the end of 2013 the open pit was closed and the transition to a fully operational underground mining operation is underway.
The Argyle underground mine will extend the mine life until at least 2020. It is a block cave mine and one of the most technologically advanced mines in the world, providing opportunities to be at the forefront of mining technology and innovation.
The construction of the block cave mine was approved by the Rio Tinto Board after extensive feasibility studies into the safest and most economic way to reach deep into Argyle's ore body. In this area Argyle is leading the way for the Australian mining industry; it will be the first block cave mine in Western Australia and one of only a handful in Australia.
Block cave mining involves undercutting the ore body and allowing it to break up or 'cave' under its own weight, removing the need for explosives or blasting.
At full production, the Argyle underground mine will generate on average approximately 20 million carats per year over the life of the block cave.
The diamonds recovered at Argyle are sorted and prepared for international sale by Rio Tinto Diamonds' sales and marketing team in Antwerp, Belgium. The majority of customers for the non pink Argyle product are based in India where a Rio Tinto Diamonds representative office is located in Mumbai. Argyle's polished pink diamonds are sold to an international customer base comprising traders, jewellery manufacturers, jewellery designers and luxury retailers.
The Argyle mine is characterised by a high level of efficiency, safety and productivity, coupled with a commitment to quality management, a skilled workforce and state-of-the-art technology. Argyle is committed to a number of key priorities that are essential to the success of its mining operations, including the safety of all employees, the preservation of the environment and the development of strong and enduring relationships with local communities. Regionally Argyle is a significant contributor to the east Kimberley in employment, infrastructure, tourism and flow-on business.