Diamond production at Rio Tinto rose 11% year on year to 4.6 million carats in the first quarter of 2018, driven by an increase in output from its Argyle mine.
The Australia-based operation yielded nearly 3.6 million carats in the first three months ending March 31, an 18% jump over the same period last year. The growth was due to the processing of higher-grade alluvial tailings, the company said last week.
The increase came despite plans to scale down operations at Argyle, after Rio Tinto last month reduced the mine’s ore reserve estimate by 45% — enough to continue operations until 2020.
The surge at Argyle offset a 6% drop to almost 1.1 million carats at the Diavik mine in Canada, in which Rio Tinto owns a 60% stake, with the remainder held by Dominion Diamond Mines. The decrease was caused by the lower grade of ore recovered.
Rio Tinto is working on a new project at Diavik, the A21, a fourth pipe located just south of the mine’s existing operations, which it said would ensure the continuation of current output levels. The company anticipates the A21 project to be at full production capacity during the fourth quarter.
The miner expects to produce 17 million to 20 million carats for the year compared to 21.6 million carats last year.
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