Plans are underway at Ekati to develop a new open-pit mine at its Point Lake site.

“We do have plans to develop a new open pit at Point Lake. Subject to the issuance of the required permits, mining will commence at Point Lake in 2023,” said Michelle McCullagh, spokesperson for Ekati operator Arctic Canadian Diamond Company.

The Point Lake site is just northeast of the Misery Pit, in the southeast part of the Ekati property, it is also one of the original spots where diamonds were found in the region in 1991, said the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency.

The planned Point Lake pit mine sits northeast of the existing Misery Pit on the southeast portion of the Ekati property. image courtesy of Arctic Canadian Diamond Company

The new pit will use the existing camps, roads, and process plant infrastructure located on the Ekati mining leases, according to an Arctic Canadian overview on the project.

The new developments will include a 500-metre access road, an open pit, a waste rock storage area and overburden stockpile beside the open pit.

When the project closes, the open pit will be filled with fresh water, the access road will be reclaimed and the waste rock storage area will be covered, in line with the Interim Closure and Reclamation Plan.

The project will also incorporate features that help mitigate risks, such as the design of the waste rock storage area that aims to reduce risk to caribou movement; mine water will be collected and transferred to the King Pond settling facility to reduce risk to water and wildlife; a Fisheries Offsetting Plan will help offset losses in the Point Lake watershed; and the company will continue to engage with communities and Traditional Knowledge holders about the project.

The new pit will add four years of life to the Ekati mine, McCullagh added.

Ekati’s life span, including its Misery underground and Jay projects, is expected to last until 2034, though other operations at the site, including the Fox Deep project, could extend its life to 2042, the company said.

Plans for the Point Lake project come on the heels of a tumultuous year for Ekati, after it was sold by Dominion Diamond Mines to Arctic Canadian in February. That transaction followed almost one year of legal processes, during which all of the company’s assets were bought by DDJ Capital Management, Brigade Capital Management and Western Asset Management Company.

Arctic Canadian Diamond acquired all of Dominion’s assets, except for its interest in the joint venture agreement and liabilities relating to the Diavik Diamond Mine. It also assumed $89.4 million of Dominion’s outstanding debt under its revolving credit agreement and the reclamation obligations of the Ekati mine.

Arctic Canadian Diamond will also receive a new $108.6-million working capital loan.

On April 22, 2020, Dominion filed for insolvency protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, just over one month after it suspended operations in March 2020 to protect employees and communities from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 10-week phased restart began at the mine in November 2020. The site returned to normal operations on Jan. 20, 2021.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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