BHP Billiton has announced the approval of the Misery open pit project at its EKATI diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, Canada.

The firm expects stripping operations at the Misery project to begin in October 2011 and ore production to commence in late 2015.

The estimated capital expenditure required to complete the execution phase is $323m, of which $29m of pre-commitment capital was approved in 2010 to enable long lead equipment required for the project.

BHP Billiton diamonds and specialty products president Graham Kerr said the firm is now able to continue to make the most of the resources at EKATI.

About 81% of EKATI mine’s budget to date has been spent with the northern suppliers and the mine has also supported and developed northern communities.