History of Argyle Pink Diamond Mine

The Argyle Pink Diamond story 

The Australian Argyle mine is counted among the most prominent and prolific diamond mines in the world, especially when it comes to natural Pink Diamonds. Thirty years ago there were few who believed Australia could hold the secret of Diamonds – even fewer could foresee the discovery of the rarest of all Diamonds ­‐ the Pink Diamond. It took seven years of hope for geologists combing the Kimberley region of Western Australia (an area roughly the size of Texas USA) before the first real signs of success were encountered. Further geological studies based out of the University of Western Australia indicated a similarity between the Lamprodite rock common to the region and Kimberlite; a type of rock frequently associated with Diamonds. With funding from Ashton Mining Ltd., an exploration of the area commenced.

In 1976 CRA Ltd. took over management of the budding mine. Setting two clear objectives, first to locate a Diamond larger than 0.25carat, and secondly to pinpoint a 'pipe' (layer) that would yield these Diamonds. A great part of the company’s strategy was dependent on the rainy season. The company hoped the wet conditions would lead them to exposed pipes where diamonds were washed away to the waterbeds. It was during this time that one of the geologists noticed a Diamond embedded into an ant hill and further exploration revealed a discovery of small diamonds in a dry creek bed. It is CRA that later became what we now know as Rio Tinto Ltd. 

Aerial view of the Argyle Diamond MineAerial view of the Argyle Diamond Mine

The beginnings of the mine presented some tough challenges. The Kimberley region is remote, with little access to infrastructure making initial efforts arduous and costly. Helicopters were needed to take samples from Kimberley waterbeds and it was years before research yielded positive results. However by 1979, geologists were able to pinpoint substantial alluvial diamond deposits and it was decided that Smoke Creek in the Ragged Ranges would be the best location for a mine. In the following two months, a diamond­‐bearing Lamproite pipe called “AK1 pipe” was identified.

Following this, things moved quickly with alluvial mining operations at Smoke Creek and by 1984 construction began on the Argyle mine. Within 18 months, the company had built the required infrastructure and spent $450 million for the AK1 plant construction. 1984 officially marked the year the Argyle mine was commissioned.

Total productivity of Pink Diamonds breaks down to just 1% of overall production from the Argyle site, however this is quite deceptive as it accounts for 90­‐95% of pink and red diamond supplies globally. This makes the Argyle mine the most consistent source for of Pink Diamonds. 

Mobile plant on haul road at the Argyle Diamond mine, Western AustraliaMobile plant on haul road at the Argyle Diamond mine, Western Australia

The recent popularity of Coloured Diamonds makes the 1970 discovery of the Argyle mine a cause for celebration. Nevertheless, all things change over time and after a brilliant three decades of success, Argyle's open pit operations are coming to a close. In spite of newly established underground operations, the mine’s life expectancy is short and experts predict that by 2022 the Argyle mine will be fully exhausted.

With this information, diamond collectors can expect Pink and Red Diamonds will continue to escalate in value and rarity, speaking volumes about their investment potential, as well as becoming a legacy for future generations.