BHP Billiton has approved the Misery open-pit project at its Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, Canada. The project consists of a pushback of the existing Misery pit, which was mined from 2001 to 2005. Stripping operations are expected to begin in October 2011, with ore production beginning late 2015 and final production from Misery in mid-2017. Capital costs to complete the execution phase are estimated at $323 million (BHP Billiton 80% share). Of that amount, $29 million of pre-commitment capital was approved in 2010 to enable long-lead equipment to be brought in on the 2011 winter road.
Ekati has produced an average of about 3 million carats/year of rough diamonds over the past three years. Annual sales from Ekati operations represent around 3% of current world rough diamond supply by weight and 5% by value.
BHP Billiton also announced Tim Cutt had been appointed president of the company’s diamonds and specialty products business group, effective June 1, and the group’s Canadian headquarters would be relocated to Saskatoon. Cutt had been president of production of BHP Billiton’s petroleum business since joining the company in 2007. Prior to joining BHP Billiton, he served for almost 25 years with Mobil Oil and then ExxonMobil, including a term as president of ExxonMobil Canada Energy.
Relocation of the diamonds and specialty products group headquarters to Saskatoon will be phased over a number of months and reflects BHP Billiton’s desire to have the group headquarters near its Jansen potash project, which is located 140 km east of Saskatoon. The project is being developed as an 8-milllion-mt/y operation, potentially making it the world’s largest potash mine. The company submitted the environmental impact statement for the project to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment in mid-December 2010.