Argyle Diamond Mine – a Tour

A couple of weeks ago was up in Kununurra and I had the pleasure of doing a tour of the Argyle Diamond Mine.

This is something that I had been hoping to do for some time. There are only two ways that I know of to tour the mine and they are both with local Kununurra tour operators as part of a package. We decided on the Bungle Bungle Adventurer + Diamond Mine Tour through Aviair. More information can be found through this link: https://www.visitkununurra.com/tours/kimberley/aviair

The pilots are wonderful and have great knowledge of the region. You fly over Lake Argyle, the Ord River Irrigation system as well as amazing natural beauty including the stunning Bungle Bungles which are a true treasure of Western Australia

We also flew over the mine area before we landed which was an amazing experience. It is amazing to see how vast and isolated the area is. The closest capital cities by air are 2,000 km from Perth and 550 km from Darwin.

When diamonds were first discovered in the region at Smoke Creek they weren’t just indicators that there ‘may’ be diamonds. Members of the venture team were astonished to find up to 15 diamonds in their pan when they sieved gravel from certain parts of the creek and fittingly dubbed it “the jewel box”.

There was a small problem as the area was under a uranium lease which would expire shortly. All efforts were therefore made to keep the find a secret. To put others off the scent, the venture team even went so far as to set up a ‘dummy camp’. Within 24 hours of the lease expiring the team made an application and after a tense night it was official and the Argyle Diamond Mine was conceived.

The initial investment to establish the mine was $450,000,000 but this was money well spent. In 1994, production peaked when 42 million carats (8,400 kg) were produced. By this time Argyle was the largest producing diamond mine in the world.

Of the diamonds extracted from the mine, 5% are gem quality, 25% industrial and the remainder are termed near gem. Almost all the diamonds that are produced are cut and polished in India and destined for use in the jewellery industry.

The Argyle mine was converted from open cut to underground operations in 2013. In September 2010, Rio Tinto announced an investment of $803m to complete the project. The money was used to ramp-up the underground block cave in order to extend the mine’s life to 2020. The underground mine became operational by 2013. Now when you stand above the mine as per the following picture there is very little activity as it is all happening underneath the surface.

The reason the mine is so special to me is for the rare pink diamonds. We deal a lot in these stunning diamonds and it was so amazing to see for myself the area in which they are found. I was especially pleased to see the mine while still in operation. With the mine expected to close in December 2020 it is difficult to project what will happen to the value of the Argyle Pink Diamond. The prices have been increasing at a steady rate now for more than 20 years and this does not look like changing in the short term. I would highly recommend this tour and a visit to the Kimberly. It is a truly magical place that needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.