Arctic Canadian Diamond Company and IHC Mining developed an Underwater Remote Mining (URM) System, which will help extract diamondiferous kimberlite from deep open pits at the Ekati Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
The starting point for the development of the underwater remote mining system was to develop alternative mining methods to economically extract kimberlite from marginal pipes and from and/or from mined out pipes by further deepening. An important focus was to develop a mining solution that would have a much lower environmental impact than currently used mining methods.
Arctic Canadian and IHC Mining started their cooperation in 2018, to jointly develop an innovative and integrated mining solution. This so-called underwater remote mining (URM) system consists of a floating platform, an underwater mining crawler and a land based dewatering plant.
As the URM system is only mining the kimberlite and minimises the removal of waste material, it significantly reduces the mine’s footprint. With the URM Ekati Diamond Mine has the possibility to extend its lifetime by at least 10 years.
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. With this solution we are taking the next step in the future of diamond-bearing kimberlite mining.Jon Carlson - Head of Exploration and Project Development at Arctic Canadian
The URM system is developed following specific milestones:
A launch and recovery platform for the URM system. This was the first major equipment scope being awarded by Arctic Canadian for the URM system, following years of development work. The platform is ready and will be delivered to Canada.
An underwater mining crawler for the URM system. The 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. The ore is pumped from the crawler to the surface of the flooded pit via a vertical pipeline system to the launch and recovery platform, and transported further to the dewatering plant. The mining crawler is currently being built and assembled at Royal IHC’s premises in the UK and scheduled for commissioning by the end of 2023.
Finally, a land-based dewatering plant, located next to the flooded pit, will upgrade the kimberlite by removing fines and dewater the ore, so that it can be transported to the main processing plant at Ekati. This way the footprint is reduced even further.
The various components of the URM system will be tested step by step in the summer period of 2024 and 2025 in the formal Lynx-pit, followed by a production trial with the goal to extract approximately 150,000 tonnes of kimberlite from the Lynx pit.
The URM solution is a technological breakthrough for kimberlite diamond mining. A new innovative solution which originated from deep sea mining and trenching systems, which has allowed Arctic Canadian and IHC Mining to take the next step in the future of diamond-bearing kimberlite mining.
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