Rio Tinto Workers Killed en Route to Diavik Diamond Mine

A number of remote employees at Rio Tinto’s Diavik diamond mine in Canada died Tuesday after the small plane carrying them to the site crashed.

“We have been informed by authorities that a plane on its way to our Diavik mine, carrying a number of our people, crashed…resulting in fatalities,” said Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm.

The company has not disclosed how many died on board the aircraft, which seats 19 people. The plane crashed near Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories shortly after takeoff. Rio Tinto employs many remote workers, who operate in shifts at the mine. Because of its isolated location, the miner transports workers by aircraft to and from the deposit.

“I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the families, friends and loved ones of those who have been affected by this tragedy,” Stausholm said. “As a company, we are absolutely devastated by this news and [are] offering our full support to our people and the community, who are grieving today. We are working closely with authorities and will help in any way we can with their efforts to find out exactly what happened.”

Northwest Territories Premier R.J. Simpson also mourned the loss.

“It is with a heavy heart that I express my deepest condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who were aboard the Northwestern Air flight that crashed outside of Fort Smith today,” he noted. “The impact of this incident is felt across the territory…. As we seek to understand the circumstances of this tragedy, I’d also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the first responders and rescue teams who continue to work tirelessly at the crash site.”

It is unclear whether the crash will impact diamond production or sales at Diavik.


Rio Tinto to spend $40m on Diavik diamond mine expansion

Rio Tinto is going ahead with a $40 million expansion of its iconic Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada, which will extend the operation’s life to at least early 2026.

The approved first phase of the project will expand diamond extraction underground, below the existing A21 open pit. Mining of that area, opened in 2018, recently concluded.

A second phase an additional cost will be put forward for approval in 2024, Rio said.

Phase one below A21 is slated to produce an extra 1.4 million carats, with phase two adding another 800,000 carats.

“This is good news for our employees, partners, suppliers and local communities in the Northwest Territories,” Sinead Kaufman, Rio Tinto Minerals’ chief executive, said in a statement.

Rio Tinto became in 2021 the sole owner of the operation, after buying the 40% share held until then by Dominion Diamond Mines.

The company has operated Diavik since production began in 2003. Located approximately 300 km north-east of Yellowknife, the mine employs over 1,100, of which 17% are Northern Indigenous people.

Diavik is Canada’s largest diamond mine in terms of production with between 6 and 7 million carats of rough diamonds produced each year. Since mining began in 2003 Diavik has produced over 100 million carats of diamonds.

The Northwest Territories’ two other diamond mines – Ekati, operated by Arctic Canadian Diamond and De Beers-Mountain Province’s Gahcho Kué – are expected to close in 2024 and 2028, respectively.

Diavik is about 30 km southeast of Ekati, and Gahcho Kué is 125 km southeast of Diavik.


Rio Tinto asks court to OK sale of partner’s diamonds in Canada mine

diavik canada

Global miner Rio Tinto is seeking court approval to sell its partner’s share of diamonds from a mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories, a filing showed, hoping to recover around C$120-million plus legal fees and other costs.

Rio owns 60% of Diavik Diamond Mines Inc (DDMI) and says it is owed C$119.5-million plus about C$2.4-million in fees by junior partner Dominion Diamond.

Dominion holds a 40% stake in the northern mine, located about 300 km north of the territorial capital of Yellowknife.

Closely held Dominion sought creditor protection in April, saying it could not afford Rio’s cash calls amid coronavirus-related disruptions in the global diamond industry.

Dominion said October 9 a proposed deal to sell its nearby Ekati mine to an affiliate of its parent company The Washington Companies for $126-million fell apart. That deal did not include its minority Diavik stake.

DDMI said in court filings that Dominion has not repaid cover payments and “has no intention of doing so” and that it would be “unjust and inequitable” to not permit DDMI to recover the amounts owing to it in accordance with its joint venture agreement.

“We remain focused on ensuring Diavik diamond mine continues to operate safely, maintaining the mine’s significant contribution to the Northwest Territories and local communities through payments to government, employees and suppliers,” a spokesman for Diavik said on Friday.

A court hearing on the application is set for October 30 in Calgary, Alberta.

Diavik produced 6.7-million carats in 2019 but is scheduled to close in 2025, with cleanup costs estimated at $365.3-million, according to court documents.

Dominion declined comment on the fate of its Diavik stake. Rio has said it will not bid on the minority interest.

Source: miningweekly