By Michelle Graff
An underground scoop at the Diavik diamond mine in Canada
London--Mining company Rio Tinto recorded a double-digit drop in its rough diamond production in 2014 as compared with 2013.

The mines in which Rio Tinto owns a full or partial stake produced 13 percent fewer carats of rough diamonds, with output dropping from 16 million carats in 2013 to 13.9 million carats in 2014. 

The Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia, a major source of pink and brown diamonds, experienced the sharpest drop in output in 2014, with carat production falling 19 percent year-over-year to 9.2 million carats. Rio Tinto said this was due to the mine’s transition from open pit to underground and the processing of lower grade ore as underground production ramps up. 

The underground portion of Argyle opened in May 2013.

Meanwhile, production at the Diavik mine in Canada, in which Rio Tinto has a 60 percent stake, was flat in 2014 while mining at the Murowa operation in Zimbabwe (78 percent stake) rose 7 percent. 

Rough diamond production at all of Rio Tinto’s diamond mines fell sharply in the fourth quarter when compared with the year-earlier period. 

At Argyle, rough output was down 43 percent year-over-year due to a maintenance shutdown. 

Production at Diavik also was down significantly, declining 25 percent as improved processing rates allowed the company to get through the stockpiled ore processed in previous quarters.  

Diamond mining at Murowa dropped 4 percent in the fourth quarter. 

On the exploration side, Rio Tinto reported that projects in both India and Canada continued. In India, the company continued drilling on a number of targets and, in Canada, it completed data review and sampling on several targets. 

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