We all know that diamonds are unearthed at mines. But when buying these diamonds, do we ask ourselves how life at a mine unfolds? In the following paragraphs, we will try and give you an idea.
Richard LeBretons works in one of the most unique and remote locations in the world: a diamond mine on an isolated island, 200 kilometres to the south of the Arctic Circle. During wintertime, temperatures fluctuate around – 40° Celsius. A dream location for a geotechnical engineer like Richard, but for your typical investor a true mystery when buying diamonds.
The Diavik diamond mine is part of Rio Tinto, a London based company that specialises in copper, aluminium, iron ore, coal and diamond mines worldwide. The mine is operated by a joint venture between Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. and Harry Winston Diamond Lmtd Partnership, who both have a headquarters in Yellowknife. Mainly subterranean diamonds are mined at Diavik. Yearly, approximately 6 million carat is quarried.
“The Diavik diamond mine is a technological wonder.” says LeBreton. It offers him a unique chance to gain experience in the geotechnical field. Geotechnics is an applied science that specialises in building on and below ground.
To gain access to the place where the diamonds are quarried, dams had to be built. The Diavik diamond mine is, after all, situated at the edge of the Lac de Gras. Geotechnical engineers have to make sure these dams can retain the water of the lake and that the large granite walls can withstand its force. As if that isn’t enough of a challenge, they also have to consider various soil conditions, such as the “Canadian Shield”, a rock plate from the Precambrian period that spans across half of Canada.
Unique work environment
The mining site is situated in a permafrost zone, on the “Barren Lands”, called thus because there are no trees or other vegetation. The mine has its own little city that is self-sufficient in virtually everything. It has, for example, its own water supply and a water treatment plant.
Workers are provided with accommodation in the city for two consecutive weeks. There they have their own bedroom, TV, internet access, free food (no alcohol), a 24-7 staffed medical post and a fitness centre. “Life follows an exciting rhythm here.” says LeBreton. “Everybody is focussed on work, but the people you work and live with become your family, resulting in a great work dynamic.” Aboriginals account for about 30% of the work force and approximately 60% are people from the Northwest Territories. The Diavik-policy ensures that the local communities of the Northwest Territories are actively involved in its activities.
The rough diamonds that are mined here are afterwards shipped to countries all over the world to be cut into the precious stones that we know. There is thus more to buying diamonds than simply choosing a finished stone. Behind every diamond, there is a fascinating story about its origins. The BAUNAT DIAMONDS’ specialists shall be happy to help you.