The Ekati Diamond Mine is located about 200 km south of the Arctic circle, near Lac de Gras in Canada's North-West Territories, about 300 km north-east of Yellowknife. Ekati is a native word meaning “fat lake”, and the name attributes to the white veins of quartz rock found throughout the area, which are similar in appearance to reindeer fat.
Ekati is Canada's first surface and underground diamond mine. It is a joint venture between BHP Billiton Diamonds (80%) and geologists Charles E Fipke and Dr Stewart E Blusson (10% each), BHP Billiton having bought out Dia Met Minerals' holding in mid-2001.
The first kimberlite pipe was found in the Lac de Gras region, in 1985, by Chuck Fipke and Stewart Blusson who had been prospecting in the region for almost ten years. Kimberlite is a soft igneous rock located in long, vertical volcanic pipes in which diamonds are sometimes found. There are less than 10,000 kimberlite pipes in the world, with very few containing diamonds. Ekati has 156 known kimberlite pipes, at least six of which contain diamonds. The kimberlite pipes in Ekati are 45 to 62 million year old, and most of these lie underneath shallow lakes that formed by melting glacier ice 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.
The Point Lake, where the first kimberlite was discovered, was determined to be uneconomic, but its discovery precipitated one of largest staking rushes in mining history, covering most of the area between Yellowknife and the Arctic coast. Ekati officially began operations on October 14, 1998, and was operated by BHP Billiton Canada Inc. The mine is estimated to supply diamonds for the 25 years.
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