Dominion Diamond Mines is pushing to expand exploration east of Ekati Diamond Mine, according to its Dec. 24 application to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.
If successful,the application would amend Dominion’s permissions, allowing it to step up exploration of its claims around Glowworm Lake, east of Ekati, which lies about 310 km northeast of Yellowknife.
Among those requests is allowing large diameter drilling and/or trenching around the claim to achieve up to “1,200 tonnes annually of bulk sample material,” the submission states. Dominion also wants permission to use and store explosives under 500 kg for trenching purposes, which entail blasting into rock to reveal minerals.
The submission also includes the possibility for winter road construction, which “would spur off the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road onto the relevant location(s) on the Project property,” according to the submission to the Board.
“Any winter roads constructed would be primarily for logistical support of the operation. Until further exploration work is done on the Project it is not known at the time of this application where such access routes would need to go,” the submission added.
In addition to roads and equipment, the request includes provisions for a base camp and additional exploration camps and adds four claims to the area. The submission to the board would cover five years, and could be extended to another two on top of that.
De Beers, owner of Gahcho Kue Mine, one of three diamonds in the territory, also notified the land and water board Dec. 31 that it is entering an exploration phase with hopes of extending the mine’s life.
Dominion Diamonds did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
As the firm’s NWT mines face an uncertain, credit agency Moody’s in October downgraded a $550-million bond issued by the miner’s parent company — Northwest Acquisitions ULC, controlled by the Washington Group, which bought and made Dominion Diamond Corporation private in 2017.
Moody’s described the bond as “of poor standing” and “subject to very high credit risk.”
If Dominion carries out an expansion at Ekati, the mine is slated to be in production into the 2030s. In 2018, however, Dominion Mines delayed the Jay Pipe expansion that would potentially expand mine life.
In October, a Dominion Diamond Mines spokesperson told NNSL Media that the project “is still under review at this time.” Meanwhile, the Fox Deep project, which was still under consideration as of this summer, could expand mining operations at the site until 2042, according to a 2017 Dominion assessment.
Ekati employs close to 1,600 people, including contractors.