Canada's Diavik Diamond Mine operator Rio Tinto has approved the construction of a fourth pipe at the remote sub-Arctic Diavik mine site.
Estimated to cost $350m and take four years to complete, the A21 kimberlite pipe development located south of Diavik's existing mining operations is said to be part of the original mine plan.
Diavik, a joint venture (JV) with Rio Tinto holding 60% and Dominion Diamond the remaining 40%, has approved the 2015 programme of works. A21 diamond production is planned for late 2018.
According to Rio Tinto, the A21 production will ensure the continuation of existing production levels by providing an important source of incremental supply to Diavik.
The A21 development will require a rockfill dike construction to encircle the ore body, located just offshore of the existing mining operations at Lac de Gras.
The company will use similar design and engineering technologies to those used to construct the two dikes at Diavik mine,which enabled the mining of three existing pipes.
Rio Tinto diamonds and minerals chief executive Alan Davies said: "Our decision to invest in the Diavik A21 project reflects our strong confidence in the diamond sector and in our ability to compete effectively in the industry."
Located 300km north-east of Yellowknife, the Diavik Diamond Mine commenced production in 2003 and became a fully underground mining operation in 2012.
The gem-quality diamonds produced by the mine are used for high-end jewellery in all major consumer markets around the world.
Diavik Diamond Mines president Marc Cameron said: "This is great news for Diavik, but also for the local communities in which we operate where we are committed to delivering economic and social benefits that will endure beyond the life of the Diavik mine."
Image: A diamond from the Diavik Diamond Mine. Photo: © Rio Tinto 2014.