URM development goes into next phase: Ekati Diamond Mine awards IHC Mining with contract for underwater mining crawler

Ekati Diamond Mine and IHC Mining have reached the next important milestone in the development of the underwater remote mining (URM) system for the extraction of diamond-bearing kimberlite ore from deep open pits in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Ekati has now awarded IHC Mining with a contract to build and deliver an Underwater Mining Crawler for the URM system. This contract follows the first milestone of the Launch and Recovery Platform being awarded by the company for the URM system, earlier this year. The platform is scheduled for delivery by the end of 2022. 

Recently, an expert team from the Netherlands visited the Ekati Diamond Mine in Canada to see the facilities and discuss further implementation of the URM at site. “We received a very warm welcome. Everybody we met at the site is very excited and committed to making this innovative project a success. The facilities are well suited for supporting the URM and preparations are already ongoing,” said Taco de Boer, Manager Mining Consultancy at IHC Mining. 

Ekati Diamond Mine and IHC Mining started their cooperation in 2018, to jointly develop an innovative and integrated mining solution. The starting point for the development of the underwater remote mining system, was to economically extract kimberlite from marginal kimberlite pipes and from deep extents of completed open pits. An important focus is to develop a mining solution that would have a much lower environmental impact than conventional mining methods. As the URM crawler is only mining the kimberlite ore and minimal waste, it significantly reduces the mine’s footprint. The URM solution could allow the Ekati Diamond Mine to extend its lifetime by at least 10 years. 

The underwater mining crawler is a remote operated continuous mining machine, equipped with the latest underwater control and positioning equipment. The ore is directly excavated with a drum cutter in small layers and eliminates the need for blasting explosives. From the crawler the ore is pumped to the surface of the flooded pit via a vertical pipeline system to the Launch and Recovery Platform, from where the ore is transported further to a dewatering plant. The crawler system is capable of operating at a water depth of up to 400 meters. 

“Many other mining solutions were evaluated over the past 15-20 years, but the mining crawler is the technological breakthrough for kimberlite diamond mining we were looking for,” said Jon Carlson, Head of Exploration and Project Development with Ekati Diamond Mine. “With this solution we are taking the next step in the future of diamond-bearing kimberlite mining.” 

The mining crawler will be built at Royal IHC’s premises in the UK and delivered to Ekati late 2023. It will then be trialed in the Lynx pit in the summer of 2024, together with the other components of the URM solution. The goal will be the extraction of approximately 150,000 tonnes of Lynx kimberlite ore. 

Ekati Diamond Mine and IHC Mining’s Underwater Mining Crawler for the Underwater Remote Mining System. The crawler will help recover diamond-bearing kimberlite ore from Ekati’s deep open pits, in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

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