A certifi ed, experienced carrier for Canada's northern diamond mines, Tli Cho Landtran Transport is a pioneer of ice road travel and construction. Tli Cho Landtran transports truckload, less- than- truckload and heavy haul loads across the ice roads and to points across North America. They offer comprehensive year- round transportation services including freight management, ice road construction and air expediting. Tli Cho Landtran Nuna Logistics congratulates De Beers Canada on the offi cial opening of their Snap Lake property. We are looking forward to our continuing participation in the successful operation of Snap Lake through our joint venture with Denesoline Corporation. The Denesoline / Nuna Joint Venture provides construction, earthworks and site services to Snap Lake and the Gahcho Kué project. Nuna Logistics South Africa ( in 1929), founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1888, rues the fact that De Beers allowed others to take the lead in Canada, but is upbeat about the future. " There's no doubt that when diamonds were fi rst discovered here in Canada, De Beers missed the boat," he said. " We did come to prospect in Canada in those days, but in some downturn of the world economy, sitting far away in Johannesburg, South Africa, no doubt myself partially responsible, we decided that Canada was a long way away and in order to save the money, we cut down our operations here. How wrong we were, and how we allowed our competitors to get ahead of us. We saw the error of our ways," he continued, " and through Snap Lake and the Victor Diamond mine, I believe De Beers is ahead of the game." So, back to No 1s. Snap Lake is the fi rst fully underground diamond mine in Canada, and Victor is the fi rst diamond mine in Ontario. Between the two, annual production is expected to be two million carats, 1.4 million at Snap Lake, and 600,000 at Victor. Long and winding is a description that could be applied to the process of opening any new mining operation. " It has taken us several years and over $ 1 billion to build each mine, and along the way, we have built strong relationships with local communities and upheld the highest environmental standards. I'm very proud of what we have accomplished," said Jim Gowans, president of De Beers Canada. " I congratulate Jim Gowans and his team for their hard work and dedication in bringing Snap Lake and Victor Mines into production," said Oppenheimer. " It is gratifying to see not only the contribution these mines will make to De Beers but the contribution they are already making to the communities in which they are based." The long and winding process of bringing new mines into operation in the 21st century is characterized by the environmental and social agreements necessary to obtain the permits. Seven impact benefi ts agreements had to be signed for these two projects, four at Snap Lake and three at Victor. In respect of Snap Lake, agreement was reached with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in November 2005, the Tlicho Government in March 2006 and the North Slave Metis Alliance in August 2006. The last of the four impact agreements, with the Lutsel K'e and Kache Dene First Nation members was agreed in April 2007. The Snap Lake ore body was purchased by De Beers from Winspear Diamonds in 2000, and the permits to build and operate the mine were obtained in May 2004. Between January 2005 and June of this year, $ 1.1 billion was spent on the mine. Seventy per cent of that ($ 775 million) was spent with Northern companies, and two thirds of that spending was with Aboriginal companies or joint ventures involving them. In any construction project, delivery of equipment and materials is a challenge to logistical expertise. The construction of a mine in the Northwest Territories is infi nitely more complex than usual, however. Permanent roads are prohibitively expensive to build, so the only vehicular access is the ice road, which is open, on average, for around eight weeks each winter. Anything the mine requires that has to be delivered by road, including fuel, buildings and equipment too bulky to be transported by air, has to come up the ice road in an eight week window in the coldest part of the winter. 112 October 08 www. bus- ex. com
October 08 www. bus- ex. com 113 De Beers Canada " You have to have your planning done well ahead of time," said Gowans, " and your engineering, because if it's custom designed you have to have your steel already designed and fabricated, inspected and ready for shipment. If you're doing it yourself you have to make sure your contractors have their equipment and everything up there." Snap Lake is an underground mine, and underground mining is expensive, so equipment has to be chosen that will do the job most effi ciently. " The ore is in a thin ribbon between 1.9 meters and 3.4 meters thick," said Gowans. " The best way to mine it is to use low profi le equipment." The equipment that De Beers has selected to use underground is trackless and low to the ground, making it easier to access areas of low overhead clearance and small spaces. The primary entrance to the mine is therefore a mere fi ve meters wide by 4.5 meters high. Everything involved in the preparation of a new diamond mine seems to involve a high level of complexity. But once you've got the ore body ( kimberlite) out of the ground, the process seems much more straightforward. Diamonds are not chemically attached to the host rock, so recovery is more like harvesting than processing. Having said that, however, we must remember that even where diamonds are found in relative abundance, they are like needles in a haystack. Hundreds of tons of material a day must be processed to reveal a handful of precious stones.