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Ekati Owner Sees Underwater Mining as Site’s Future

Dec 1, 2021 10:31 AM   By Leah Meirovich
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Arctic Canadian Diamond Company is working on technology that will enable it to begin underwater remote mining (URM) in an effort to extend the life of its Ekati deposit.

The miner has spent the past four years creating the necessary equipment together with maritime-technology provider Royal IHC. The machine, known as a crawler, will enable Arctic to mine the deeper part of the existing open pits at Ekati it can’t access with regular tools, it told Rapaport News Tuesday.

“If we get this technique right, which I’m very confident we will, we’ve got decades of successful mining ahead for Ekati,” Arctic CEO Rory Moore said last week during an annual geoscience forum organized by the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

The company will first trial the crawler in its Lynx pit in 2023 and 2024, it said. If it works as intended, it will be used to mine kimberlite from the Sable pit for an additional four years, Arctic noted.

“There is potential to extend the mine life by many more years beyond this by using the underwater mining technique, but detailed work still needs to be done,” the company explained. “In total, there is the potential to mine an additional 40 million carats using the...system.”

The crawler contains a rotating mining drum equipped with teeth located at the center, which cut a layer of kimberlite a few inches thick as it drives over the surface. The kimberlite cuttings are pumped to the surface by a big hydraulic pump, and after dewatering, the ore is sent to the processing plant for diamond recovery, Arctic explained.

The crawler will be able to operate for approximately half the year, during the warmer months. Arctic doesn’t believe it will have trouble gaining government support for the device.

“The URM method will have a significantly lower environmental impact relative to conventional mining methods, so we are hopeful that the regulators will be supportive of its implementation,” the company noted.

Ekati’s current mine plan accounts for operations until 2035. In 2017, former owner Dominion Diamond Mines considered spending $628 million to move to underground mining at the site’s Fox pit, which would have extended Ekati’s life to 2042 and added 11 million carats.

Image: An aerial view of the Ekati mine. (Arctic Canadian Diamond Company)
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Tags: Arctic Canadian Diamond Company, ekati, Leah Meirovich, northwest territories, Rory Moore, Royal IHC, Underwater Mining
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