|Location:||Kununurra, Kimberley region, far north east of Western Australia. 550km south west of Darwin.|
|Open:||All year |
|Fee:||depends on tour operator/tour package|
|Classification:||Diamond Mine, open-pit mine|
Tour operators (examples):
Discover West Holidays, 19 Olive St, PO Box 8073, Subiaco, Perth WA 6008, Australia, Tel +61-8-6263-6475, Fax: +61-8-6263-6482.
Slingair and Heliwork, PO Box 612, Kununurra, WA, 6743, Fax: +61-2-9999-4332.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1890s||diamonds discovered in the Pilbara region.|
|1972||Kimberley region identified as being the most likely location for diamonds, joint venture formed.|
|1977||diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes discovered in Ellendale.|
|1979||deposit discovered by the Ashton joint venture.|
|1983||alluvial diamond mining.|
|1985||production of mine began.|
|2002||operated by the Argyle Diamond Mines Joint Venture, owned by Rio Tinto.|
Argyle was the first diamond orebody mined commercially which is not hosted in kimberlite. The AK1 pipe at Argyle instead consists of olivine lamproite. Diamonds in lamproite were new to the diamond world in the 1970s, and Argyle was the only economically viable lamproite diamond mine for many years.
The rocks of the Kimberley Plateau are nearly flat-lying sedimentary and volcanic rocks. Deposited between 1.6 and 1.9 billion years ago, those rocks originate from the Proterozoic, which is rather old. The basement consisting of crystalline igneous and metamorphic rocks is more than 2.5 billion years old, which is Archaean age.
The lamproite pipe was eroded over time forming placer deposits nearby. Those relocated soft sediments containing diamonds were mined in so-called alluvial diamond mines. However, after they had been removed to a certain point the pipe was found below, and so the open pit mining of the pipe started.
The Argyle Mine is the world's largest single producer of diamonds. In 2013 it produced about 10.2 million carats of diamonds. It is located in a remote, rugged and hot desert, with temperatures of over 40°C. This rather new mine, is operated by 520 employees which are based at Perth, working two weeks 12 hour shifts at the mine and then spending two weeks at home.
The diamond bearing rock is dislodged by drilling and blasting, then loaded by excavators into 120 tons dump trucks. At the processing plant the diamonds are extracted by physical processing techniques: crushing, scrubbing, screening and gravity separation. Finally diamond recovery is achieved by the use of x-ray sorting machines. Diamonds fluoresce under x-ray and are thus easily identified by the sorter.
There are several possibilities to visit this sight, but generally only in day trips from Kununurra, which include plane and/or coach ride. The four hour mine tour tour includes process plant, diamond viewing room, natural history museum, open-pit lookout, and buffet lunch at Argyle Village. It is possible to combine a flight over the Bungle Bungle Ranges with the mine trip.