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The Argyle diamond mine in the East Kimberly Region of Western Australia, that is owned by giant global mining company Rio Tinto, started out as a result of a successful exploration project that began in 1976. Exploration in the area recovered some rather small diamonds in the area in 1979 but it was enough to lead to the discovery of a diamond 'pipe' that eventually led to the establishment of the Argyle open pit mine.

Diamonds Recovered From lamproite Rock at the Argyle Diamond Mine

A mining lease was secured and alluvial mining began in the area in 1983 during open pit construction. The project was finally commissioned in late 1985 under the name of Argyle Kimberlite 1 (AK1). This came about when geologists mistakenly believed the diamonds were being recovered from rocks of that name. It was not long before the mistake was discovered and that the rock supporting the diamond 'pipe' was in fact lamproite. There were other diamond bearing pipes in the area but it was decided to develop the AK1 pipe because it was considered to be the most viable.

Diamonds Previously Recovered by Means of Alluvial Mining of Creek Beds

Before the Argyle Mine open pit was commissioned, alluvial mining was taking place along ancient creek beds where diamonds had been deposited over a period of millions of years by water rushing down the streams. Diamond at the Argyle Mine are found underground to some considerable depth, the reason why underground mining is going to be the second phase of mining at the site, after the open pit is exhausted.

The Rare Pink Diamond is Argyle Mine's Signature Stone

Diamonds from the Argyle Mine are discovered in many colours, they can be white, pink or champagne with many variation of those hues. The mines pink diamond being greatly prized, as it is quite rare, with the Argyle Mine being the primary source of this coloured diamond in the world. As a result the pink diamond has become known as the Argyle Mine signature stone. Once the diamonds leave the Argyle Mine they travel the following path:

• Pink diamonds are sent to Perth to be treated Rio Tinto's state-of- the-art diamond cutting facility. It is here where the finest pink diamonds are cut and polished before being sold as loose polished diamonds to exclusive tenderers.
• The majority of Argyle Mine diamonds are sold as rough diamonds to mainly Indian customers who comprise manufacturers and diamond traders
• Diamonds from the mine are also sent to Rio Tinto Diamond Sale and Marketing Office in Antwerp in Belgium where they are sorted by experts and made ready for sale

Open Pit Worked 24 Hours a day Every day of the Year

The Argyle open pit and processing plant operated 24 hours a day every day of the year removing ore from the AK1 pit that was two kilometres in length and one kilometre in width. The total surface area of the pit was 300 hectares. After the overburden is removed the ore in the pit is drilled and blasted. Each blasting hole releasing around 3,000 tonnes of rock. Excavators of a 45 tonnes loading ability loaded the rock into haulage trucks capable of carrying 200 tonnes at a time. The haulage trucks transported the rock 2.5 kilometres to a primary crusher, the first process in diamond recovery from the rock.

Underground Mining at Argyle to Last Until 2020

The Argyle underground mine will extend the life of mine to 2020. It is designed to operate as a block cave mining method. The first block cave underground mine in Western Australia and one of only a handful in Australia. The block cave method is designed to eliminate the use of explosives to release the rock containing the diamonds. It operated by undercutting the ore body and allowing it to fall under its own weight. By using this method the underground mine will remove nine million tonnes of ore a year that will produce 20 million carats.

Commissioning of the Argyle underground mine will take place in 2013 and full production is expected to take place in 2014.

Red Diamonds

This one is just 10 secs but it's an aerial view of the mine

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a major producer of iron ore, coal, bauxite, alumina, aluminium, uranium, copper, gold, diamonds, salt and energy across the globe. Businesses include open pit and underground mines, refineries, smelters, mills and power stations. Also a number of research facilities more


Rio Tinto
152-158 St George s Terrace
Perth, WA 6000



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