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Rio Tinto opens underground portion of Argyle

2013-05-06

London--Mining company Rio Tinto announced on April 30 that the life of its Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia has been extended to at least 2020 following the opening of underground mining operations there.

Prior to opening of underground operations, Argyle operated as an open-pit mine. The $2.2 billion expansion used the latest in block-caving technology and is the first mine of its kind in Western Australia, Rio Tinto said. 

The average annual production is expected to be 20 million carats per year.

A total of 70 percent of the Argyle workforce lives locally, making the mine a large contributor to the economy of east Kimberley, the region of Western Australia where the mine is located. Indigenous Australians account for 25 percent of the local workforce.

Over the last 25 years, the Argyle mine has produced a total of 800 million carats of rough diamonds and is a source for pink, brown and gray diamonds.

In addition to Argyle, Rio Tinto controls 60 percent of the Diavik mine in Canada, 78 percent of the Murowa mine in Zimbabwe and has a 100 percent interest in the Bunder diamond project in India.

The company, which also operates aluminum, copper, and coal mines, among others, is reportedly looking to divest itself of its diamond mining operations, with the latest reports indicating the company could sell the mines one by one.