NORTHWEST TERRITORIES – BHP BILLITON’s third underground diamond mine, the Koala project at the Ekati mine near Lac des Gras, has been built safely, ahead of schedule and under budget.
First kimberlite production followed the inaugural blast, which was successfully achieved on Oct. 4, 2007, five weeks ahead of schedule, and the main conveyor was commissioned on Dec. 9, four months ahead of schedule. This marks the official start of underground ore production from Koala, with production ramp-up to full production of 3,300 t/d expected by mid calendar year 2009.
“The Koala underground mine is a very important part of the future of Ekati and completing the mine four months ahead of schedule and under budget and with an excellent safety record underlines the quality of the project team,” said Graham Kerr, president of diamonds and specialty products.
Recently the Koala underground project received a High Commendation Award from BHP Billiton’s 2007 Project Safety Excellence Awards Program. BHP Billiton recognized the significant effort that has gone into improving the safety systems and processes at Koala and the excellent safety base to ensure future success and Zero Harm.
The Koala project, approved in June 2006, is expected to deliver approximately 9.8 million ct of high-value diamonds over an 11-year production life. The project’s capital cost is approximately US$220 million.
Koala underground project documents are available at http://ekati.BHPBilliton.com.