Northwest Territories sees more diamonds in its future

by Peter Caulfield
Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines standing with Elizabeth Kingston, general manager of the Nunavut office of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines with Elizabeth Kingston (Liz), general manager of the Nunavut office of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. — Photo courtesy NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines

The North West Territories (NWT) is notable for being the third biggest producer of diamonds in the world by value, with operating mines at Ekati, Diavik and Snap Lake.

“In 2014, diamond production was up nearly 15 per cent over 2013,” said Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. “And the price our miners fetched for their rough stones was also up 15 per cent from 2013, at almost $1.8 billion.”

By late fall 2015, construction of the NWT’s fourth and newest diamond mine, Mountain Province Diamonds' Gahcho Kué project, was 80 per cent complete.

Gahcho Kué consists of a cluster of four diamondiferous kimberlites, three of which, the company says, have  a  probable  mineral  reserve  of 35.4  million  tonnes  grading 1.57  carats  per  tonne, for  a total diamond content of 55.5 million carats.

Detailed engineering and procurement are complete and the process plant and truck maintenance buildings are expected to be enclosed by the end of the year.

The total capital cost to build the mine, which is located 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, is an estimated $1.01 billion.

Production is slated to begin in the second half of 2016. Gahcho Kué is expected to produce an average of 4.5 million carats per year over a 12-year mine life.

Hoefer said active exploration is taking place at Kennady Lake, which is adjacent to the Gahcho Kué mine. Kennady Diamonds Inc. controls 100 per cent of the Kennady North diamond project.

In a December 2015 announcement, Kennady Diamonds president and CEO Patrick Evans said planning is underway to recover an approximate 500-tonne bulk sample from the Kelvin North Lobe of the project in February or March 2016, with results expected by mid-2016. The bulk sample is expected to deliver more than 1,200 carats to support revenue modelling for the Kelvin kimberlite.

TerraX Minerals Inc. owns the Yellowknife City Gold Project, which lies immediately north of Yellowknife.

The project is located on the Yellowknife greenstone belt and covers 15 kilometres of strike length. The project area contains multiple shears that are the recognized hosts for gold deposits.

Since acquiring the Northbelt property in February 2013, TerraX has consolidated the project area by acquiring and optioning adjacent properties, as well as staking additional contiguous lands.

North of TerraX, Nighthawk Gold Corp. holds a land position in the Indin Lake Gold Camp.

Hoefer said there are also a number of smaller exploration projects for diamonds, gold and base metals underway by such companies as Canterra Minerals, Denendeh Exploration and Mining Company (DEMCo), Proxima Diamonds Corp., Panarc Resources Ltd., North Arrow Minerals Inc. and Songful Resources Ltd.

Elizabeth Kingston, general manager of the Nunavut office of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said the territory, which lies northeast of the NWT, has two operating mines.

The Meadowbank Gold Mine, which Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. opened in early 2010, is Nunavut’s first new gold mine development since the creation of the territory in 1999. 

Production from Meadowbank accounts for roughly 18 per cent of the territory's gross domestic product. The company recently announced it is proceeding with a pit expansion that will extend the operating life of Meadowbank to 2018.

Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation's Mary River Mine is Nunavut’s newest mine. It consists of nine lump and fine iron ore deposits that can be mined, crushed and screened into marketable products and shipped from the company's own port. Baffinland shipped its first iron ore to Europe in July 2015.

The company employs just over 600 people at the Milne Inlet port and the mine.Mining projects under development in Nunavut include TMAC Resources Inc.'s Doris deposit at Hope Bay; Agnico Eagle's Meliadine gold project; Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.'s Back River gold project; MMG Limited's Izok Corridor project; and AREVA’s Kiggavik uranium mining project.

In addition, Nunavut has a number of exploration projects: Agnico Eagle's Amaruq gold deposit near its Meadowbank mine;  Peregrine Diamonds Ltd.'s  CH-7 kimberlite near Iqaluit; Kaizen Discovery Inc.'s Coppermine project; North Arrow Minerals Inc.'s Luxx and Mel diamond projects; and Kivalliq Energy Corporation's Angilak uranium property.

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