Rio Tinto to rehabilitate Argyle diamond mine beyond 2020

Rio Tinto has said it will commit hundreds of millions of dollars over decades to rehabilitate its Argyle diamond mine in the Kimberley region in Western Australia, following its scheduled closure in early 2020.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said the company was talking with traditional owners, the local community, its workers and the state government in its plans of rehabilitating the site. The company was also undertaking a feasibility study into the mine closure.

Jacques said the company planned to reassign some of Argyle’s 450 workers to the company’s iron ore operations in the Pilbara, while some others might be involved in the company’s rehabilitation.

“It could take maybe two decades before the site is rehabilitated. There could still be lots of employment, especially for local communities for an extended period of time,” Jacques said.

“Maybe they don’t always have the right skill set at this point in time, but we will work with them very closely in order to make sure that we create sustainable jobs for the coming decades.”

Last month, Perth-based leading mining contractor NRW Holdings confirmed that it was awarded a $7 million contract for a trial mine rehabilitation project at Argyle.

Speaking at Rio’s annual diamond tender, when the largest vivid pink diamond in 84 years of its history was unveiled, Jacques closed any possibility of continuing operations at the mine after its closure.

“We still have two or three years of production from an economic standpoint and then that is it,” Jacques said.

The company said that it was devoting funds to a global search for “the next Argyle”.

The Argyle mine has been operating since 1983 and has produced more than 800 million carats of rough diamonds. It is one of the world’s largest supplier of diamonds and the world’s largest supplier of natural coloured diamonds.

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