Snap Lake Mine: Mining: De Beers Canada

About the Snap Lake Mine

Location: 63° 34’ 30” latitude and 110° 52’ 00” longitude, about 220 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife
Mine Area: 500 hectares
Recoverable grade: 1.2 carats per tonne
Annual tonne processing capacity: 1.1 million tonnes
Annual carat production capacity: 1.4 million carats

Snap Lake Mine Overview

The Snap Lake Mine, De Beers’ first mine outside of Africa, is unique in Canada. Built on the shore of Snap Lake, 220 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, the mine is Canada’s first completely underground diamond mine. The Snap Lake ore body is a 2.5 metre thick dyke that dips an average of 12-15° from the northwest shore down under the lake. It is unlike most diamond-bearing kimberlite deposits which are known as ‘pipes’ due to their conical or carrot-like shape.

The kimberlite was discovered in 1997 by Winspear Resources. De Beers Canada bought the project in the fall of 2000 and received permits to build and operate the mine in May 2004.

Following pre-development design and engineering work, construction started with the winter road in 2005. Because of Snap Lake’s remote location, building and operating the mine requires careful planning. Travel to the site is only possible by airplane for all but six to eight weeks of the year, when a seasonal ice road is used to re-supply the mine with equipment, parts and other materials needed to operate the mine.

By December 31, 2010 $1.5 billion had been spent on construction and operation of the mine. Of that total, $1.077 billion has been spent with NWT-based contractors and suppliers, including $676 million with Aboriginal businesses or Joint Ventures.

The mine commenced commercial production on January 16, 2008 and the Official Mine Opening took place on July 25, 2008.

De Beers is committed to sustainable development in local communities The Snap Lake Mine has signed four Impact Benefit Agreements (IBA) for the Snap Lake Mine including:
  • Yellowknives Dene First Nation (November 2005);
  • Tlicho Government (March 2006);
  • North Slave Métis Alliance (August 2006); and,
  • Lutsel K’e and Kache Dene First Nation (April 2007).

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