If you think a diamond mine that produces around 20 million carats worth of diamond each year would be considered as among the largest mines in the world, you’re right. And that rightly describes Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine operating in the region of East Kimberley, Western Australia since 1983.
Having produced more than 800 million carats, it is among the largest diamond suppliers in the world, especially in terms of diamonds tinted in nature. The history of the Argyle mine started with the diamond search in the small and remote areas of Western Australia as early as the 1970s.
The Argyle Mine Tale
Without a doubt, it was a bold task, but it brought plenty of wonders and fully changed the understanding of the geological records! So, how did it all start? In the 1940s, Ewen Tyler, then a University of Western Australia geology student, learned that kimberlite was the only standard host rock for diamonds.
This led to his fascination with the comments of Rex T. Prider, his geology lecturer, that the lamproite, an ultrapotassic mantle-derivative volcanic rock, found in the Kimberley area of Western Australia showed a strong match to those diamond rich rocks in South Africa.
In 1979, diamonds were revealed after a dozen years of search by various firms in the region.
The diamond deposit was mined through open pit quarrying for the next 30 years. In the final month of 1985, open pit drilling commenced. At that time, the diamonds mined were of very low value, but the volumes remained immense.
That marked the birth of the Argyle brand as among the largest creators of diamonds in the world and the main supplier of naturally tinted diamonds, counting blue, cognac, white, champagne, and the extremely sought-after extraordinary pink diamonds.
The Argyle Mining, Processing, and Products
Argyle is managed by the joint venture, Argyle Mines, which has been wholly owned by Rio Tinto since 2002. In 2012, the underground workshop and roadway construction was finished and the underground implements and dewatering drains were put in.
The underground pit began in April 2013, which paved the way to a new age of underground digging on the AK1 pit. Needless to say, the Argyle mine below the ground is pushing boundaries both in complexity and size, there are currently about 40 kilometres of tunnels.
The main roads in the network underground are four shafts, where two carry means of transportation, one for ore transfer, and the last for ventilation. At hand are two huge crushers underground, as well as conveyor belts transporting the minerals from deep within the mine towards the exterior.
The Argyle processing plant is among the well-organised in the globe, processes a maximum of 11 million tons of ore each year. And that comes as no surprise because the Argyle processing plant and mine operate 24/7. Recently, there has been an especially large volume of pink diamonds.
Throughout history pink stones have smashed auction prices. And this demonstrates the distinct advantage of the Argyle mine in producing remarkable jewels. Putting things into perspective, the Argyle mine is responsible for more than 90% of the best red and pink diamonds in the world today.
Still, less than one percent of the Argyle mine diamonds are classified as this colour. This makes the pink diamonds of Argyle brand really rare since they do not exceed 4,000-carats per year. By themselves, though, pink diamonds often command auction prices far over and above those of clear diamonds, even those quite a bit larger.
Even though the Argyle pit is typically linked to pink diamonds, it is likewise a major provider of brown stones, especially the irrefutably stylish Champagne diamonds. And take note that these champagne diamonds are increasing in popularity recently. A whopping 80% of the diamonds unearthed at the Argyle mine are brown.
Australian Certified Diamond Sales and Investment
The bulk of the Australian certified diamonds are traded as uncut or rough diamonds. These are sorted and made ready for worldwide selling by the sales and marketing team of Rio Tinto in Antwerp, Belgium. All of the diamonds from the Argyle brand are used in jewellery and find a home in all major global consumer markets.
The average growth of investment for pink diamonds from the Argyle brand is roughly 15% to 20% or more in some instances.
The mainstream of the Australian certified uncut diamonds are firms based in India. Also, the cutting trade of India is a key display place for growing the market in support of the small, tinted diamonds that sets apart the Australian certified products.
The Argyle Mine Social and Economic Responsibility
The Argyle mine operates within an area of major social and economic disadvantage, and for this reason is committed to helping construct a strong community that is not solely reliant on the mining industry.
To succeed in this, the Argyle brand maintains good relations with civic and trade groups all over the eastern region of Kimberley. The projects and activities that Argyle brand funds are designed towards making the life of the people better.
Examples include making towns top places to live in, fostering public leadership, keeping up local cultural events, and increasing up the supply of public health and education. In fact, as early as 2005, the signing of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Participation Agreement with the traditional owners of the extracting lease area founded a rapport between the parties.
The Argyle mine lease uses the territory of the Mirriuwung and Gidja people. As a result of the agreement, the Argyle brand is helping in giving long-term economic assistance to the indigenous people of East Kimberley and, at the same time, protecting their environmental and cultural heritage during the Argyle mine’s lifetime.
This includes keeping up civic plans to improve the economic and social prospects of Aboriginal people, as well as working with local people to cope with the cultural and environmental impact of the mining actions. Argyle has faith in its role and duty to create a long-term value for the community.
Led by Kevin McLeish, the Chief Operating Officer of Argyle, the company shows concern and respect for the settings the business works in, and for the people affected by its actions. Today, the Argyle brand is a major sponsor in the eastern Kimberley region for tourism, employment, infrastructure, and flow-on commerce, besides giving support to the local Aboriginal people.
The Argyle Mine Site
At all hours of the day and each day of the year, hundreds of people are at work at the diamond mine where the standard working shifts are 12 hours long. Some different rosters stay in place in line with job requirements and commute arrangements. As a whole, the Argyle mine is described by a superior level of safety, efficiency, and productivity.
Moreover, this is matched with a commitment to quality management, a skilled labour force, and advanced technology. While at work on-site, the company provides lodging in the 363 permanent solo rooms of the Argyle Village. These rooms are furnished with built-in air conditioning, bathrooms, kitchenettes, linen, and TV.
On top of that, the accommodation zone has dining, leisure, and laundry amenities. Its leisure facilities include of a swimming pool, small deli, basketball and tennis courts, snooker and table tennis tables, squash court, and gym.
And as extra proof of how the Argyle brand takes good care of its workers, it also has staff and peer support systems in place for workers needing guidance or support. Its staff support system allows all workers to access skilled guidance through chosen private and outside sources.
All these are in line with the goal of the Argyle brand to become the safest underground mine. The company actively works toward this via the training of its health and safety reps and leaders, superb incident management routines that revolve around engineering level remedial actions, and safety systems and standards that are easily and clearly absorbed.
The Argyle mine is located at Lissadell Rd, Lake Argyle WA 6743, as shown below. To support tourism in this area, the Argyle mine welcomes guests on managed tours from Kununurra. It takes three hours and 10 minutes of air travel from Perth to Kununurra. From there, you can sign up for the mine visit at the Kununurra Visitor Centre.