By Michelle Graff
michelle.graff@nationaljeweler.com
Argyle’s underground mining manager and its operator traverse the mine’s underground portal for the last time. The Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia, which was discovered in October 1979 and mined since 1983, closed Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Rio Tinto)
Sydney—The Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia, the world’s major source for pink and purple stones, marked its last day of mining Tuesday.

Alluvial mining at the site, located in the remote east Kimberley region in Western Australia, started in 1983, with underground operations commencing two years later.

The mine went fully underground in 2013 and, over the years, produced 865 million carats of rough diamonds.

It became the world’s largest producer of natural color diamonds that span the value spectrum, from low-cost browns to ultra-rare pinks, purples and reds that have skyrocketed in value over the years, captivating the trade and attracting collectors.

The closing of Argyle marks the end of an era in the diamond industry.

Some consider its top stones akin to rare works of art, and they compare the mine’s closure to the death of a great artist.

There’ll be no more diamonds quite like those produced by Argyle, which means, they hope, the mine’s existing works will continue to appreciate in value.

The mine’s operator, Rio Tinto, releases few details on the Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, its annual sale of the best stones from the past year’s production.

It doesn’t reveal prices paid for individual stones or the total amount brought in by the tender but it did say that the value of Argyle pink diamonds has appreciated more than 500 percent in the past 20 years, outperforming all major equity markets.

“It is very special, especially to the people who are experts,” L.J. West Diamonds President Larry West said in an interview with National Jeweler in September. “It’s a sad moment. It’s the equivalent of a great artist dying, as far as I’m concerned.”

20201104 Argyle mine closing insetRio Tinto mined the last load of ore at the Argyle Mine, which has been in operation since 1983, on Tuesday, Nov. 3. (Photo courtesy of Rio Tinto)

The current Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, called “One Lifetime, One Encounter,” is scheduled to remain open for bids until early December. 

Normally, bids close in October but the tender dates were pushed back this year because of the complications caused by COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Rio Tinto said Argyle employees, traditional owners and local stakeholders attended an event at the mine to mark the end of its life.

The company said it will take about five years to decommission and dismantle the mine and rehabilitate the land.

Argyle will continue to employ a smaller workforce throughout the closing process.





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