Canadian Mining Journal


DIAMONDS: De Beers mothballs Snap Lake

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES – De Beers Canada put its Snap Lake diamond mine on care and maintenance late last week. Maintenance work and that required to keep various permits in force will continue.

The Snap Lake mine 220 km northeast of Yellowknife opened in 2008 as Canada’s only all-underground diamond producer and De Beers’ first diamond mine outside Africa. Groundwater problems have plagued the mine, raising costs and making continued operation uneconomic, particularly as the price of rough diamonds has fallen almost 15% this year.

The mine and recovery plant provided approximately 750 jobs for employees and contractors in 2014. Mining has ceased, and only 120 workers will be employed over the next one to nine months. Thereafter, only about 70 workers will remain on site during the care and maintenance phase. The company has transferred 41 employees to the Gahcho Kue development project, and as many as 60 others may follow them next year. The net loss is 434 jobs.

De Beers will evaluate market conditions over the next year to determine if the mine can be restarted on a profitable basis. (

Meanwhile, work at the Gahcho Kue development project is more than 80% complete and on track for production to begin in the second half of 2016. De Beers is the operator and holds a 51% interest. Mountain Province Diamonds controls the other 49%. (