Rio Tinto has opened a fourth diamond pipe at the subarctic Diavik diamond mine, located 300km north-east of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

The company expects the new A21 open pit pipe to serve as a significant source of supply over the next four years to sustain production levels at the mine.

According to Rio Tinto, A21 is located adjacent to Diavik’s existing mining operations at Lac de Gras.

With a $350m investment, the company took four years to construct the pipe and achieved first ore in March.

“This investment to sustain production levels at Diavik reflects the strong outlook we see for the diamond industry.”

The pit is anticipated to operate at full production in the fourth quarter of this year.

Rio Tinto copper and diamonds chief executive Arnaud Soirat said “This investment to sustain production levels at Diavik reflects the strong outlook we see for the diamond industry.

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“It is a remarkable achievement to deliver this project safely and ahead of time in such a challenging environment, positioning Diavik to continue meeting the demand for its outstanding diamonds.”

The expenditure related to the construction of A21 were shared by Rio Tinto and its joint venture partner Dominion Diamond on a 60:40 basis.

Commencing production in 2003, the Diavik diamond mine produces gem quality diamonds for high-end jewellery.

Diavik Diamond Mines president Patrick Boitumelo said “Our people can take great pride in their achievement to safely bring the A21 pipe from development to commercial production.

“This new pipe is great news for the Northwest Territories and will help to deliver economic and social benefits that will endure beyond the life of the Diavik mine.”