Argyle Diamond Mine Open Pit
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Jan 1, 1994
The Argyle diamond mine is located in the East Kimberley area of Western Australia, some 100 km south of the town of Kununurra. The diamondiferous Argyle olivine-lamproite diatreme was discovered in August 1979. Production began in December 1985 at a planned throughput of 3 Mtpa to recover 25 million carats of diamonds. Presently, Argyle is the world's largest producer of natural diamonds and produced over 40 million carats in 1993 from seven million tonnes of lamproite ore treated. Two phases of evaluation have been carried out. The first in 1981-82 was designed to prove around 60 million tonnes of ore to justify the establishment of a mine with a minimum life of 20 years. The second phase, in 1989-90 involved drilling the orebody to greater depths to provide data on which to plan the final pit design. The final pit contained 120 million tonnes of ore at 5.3 carats per tonne (ct/t) grade. Mining of the planned pit will extend the mine life to around the year 2004, following which it is possible that a further cut-back could be mined. There is also the potential for future underground mining. A substantial amount of geotechnical work has been undertaken due to the fact that the pit will be nearly 500 m deep and is located in a mobile zone causing abnormally high residual stresses to occur in the pit walls. The occurrence of low strength rocks at depth in the pit walls further complicated the situation. Hydrogeological investigations were done to determine pit dewatering requirements and to assess the effect of dewatering on pit wall stability.