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THE DIAVIK MINES


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THE DIAVIK MINES


THE BIRTHPLACE OF AN ICON


 

Located on an island on Lac de Gras, in a remote corner of Canada’s Northwest Territories, the Diavik diamond mine operates in one of the most untouched, ecologically sensitive environments on the planet.

Set in a continuous permafrost zone, the climate is extreme. In winter, daylight lasts for only a few hours, and temperatures fall to under -50°C. While in the summer season, daylight extends up to 20 hours a day. The vast tundra that surrounds the mine is home to bears, wolverine, and migrating caribou, and the pure waters of Lac de Gras are teeming with fish and bird life.

Encircled by water, the Diavik mine can be accessed only by a single 600 km long ice road – the longest ice road in the world, with more than 85 percent of it built over frozen lakes. Constructed in 1982, the ice road is only open from February to early April, and must be rebuilt every year as the ice melts with warmer weather.

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THE VAST TUNDRA THAT SURROUNDS THE MINE IS HOME TO BEARS, WOLVERINE, AND MIGRATING CARIBOU, AND THE PURE WATERS ARE TEEMING WITH FISH AND BIRD LIFE


THE VAST TUNDRA THAT SURROUNDS THE MINE IS HOME TO BEARS, WOLVERINE, AND MIGRATING CARIBOU, AND THE PURE WATERS ARE TEEMING WITH FISH AND BIRD LIFE

HOW THE FOXFIRE WAS BORN


 

In Diavik’s mining practice, once the kimberlite ore is retrieved, it is transported to an on-site plant to be processed.

There, the ore passes through a “primary sizer,” in order to break the kimberlite up into smaller, more manageable fragments. From there, the ore is sent through a set of powerful magnets to remove debris before being crushed a second time for further refinement.

In a typical process, the diamonds would then be separated from the powdered ore using density-based and non-chemical procedures. Lighter particles are removed, leaving behind a heavy mineral concentrate, which is rich in diamonds and other stones such as olivine, garnet, spinel and diopside. X-Rays are then used to extract the diamonds from the concentrate, while photoelectric sensors direct air blasts to blow the diamonds from the conveyor belt into collection containers.

Through sheer luck alone, the Foxfire’s elliptical shape allowed it to pass through the primary sizer, escaping certain destruction. Bypassing the standard refinement process, its pure, original form was preserved, resulting in the largest known gem quality diamond ever discovered in North America.

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Slated for closure in 2024, progressive reclamation of the site has been ongoing, and will include restoration of the original shoreline of Lac de Gras


Slated for closure in 2024, progressive reclamation of the site has been ongoing, and will include restoration of the original shoreline of Lac de Gras

A FEAT OF ENGINEERING


 

In these extraordinary conditions, the Diavik mining operations stand as engineering feats on the grandest of scales. Taking immense care not to harm the pristine waters of the lake or its surrounding environment, the Diavik mine was built in the face of enormous construction and climatic challenges.

Since production began in 2003, the Diavik mine has produced over 100 million carats of diamonds, and processes up to 2 million tons of ore annually. Slated for closure in 2024, progressive reclamation of the site has been ongoing, and will include restoration of the original shoreline of Lac de Gras, dismantling and removal of the various buildings and facilities, landscaping of the waste piles, waste rock management and creation of new habitats for animals and fish.