Production at De Beers’ Gahcho Kue diamond mine, a joint venture with Mountain Province Diamond (TSX:MPV), may be delayed from 2015 to as late as beginning of 2017 due to regulatory restrictions that limited shipments to the site this winter, delaying construction. In an interview with Reuters, De Beers’ chief executive Phillipe Mellier said the firm expects to get the necessary permits to truck in more equipment and material next winter. While Canada’s federal government approved the mine in October last year, Gahcho Kué is still waiting on a water license. Situated almost 300 kilometres east of Yellowknife and southeast of the existing Snap Lake diamond project, Gahcho Kué is set to become the world’s largest and richest new diamond mine, according to operator Mountain Province, which owns 49% of the venture. The importance of the mine is also tied to the fact that two of Canada’s major diamond mines — Diavik and Ekati — are approaching the end of their productive lives, and —although it’s smaller— Gahcho Kué could offset the production drop-off.
De Beers and Mountain Province have said that almost 700 workers will be needed during the construction period, with at least 400 to be employed during its estimated 11 years of operations. The mine is expected to produce an average of 4.5 million carats annually. The companies still need to secure the final construction and operational permits before full construction can begin. Public hearings on the company’s applications are scheduled for early May, with permits likely to be issued sometime in the fall.