The Argyle Diamond Discovery, Kimberley Region, Australia

Exploration & Mining Geology, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1992

A.J.A. JANSE Mintel Pty Ltd., Carine, Perth, Western Australia

The Argyle diamond mine is located in the Kimberley region in the northern part of Western Australia at approximately 16°43'S, 128°23'E in subtropical bush/shrub savannah. The 46 ha (113 acres) pipe is situated in the Halls Creek mobile zone, which was cratonized about 1800 Ma ago and adjoins the Kimberley Block, a plateau upheld by Early to Middle Proterozoic rocks underlain by presumably Archean basement. The crater and upper pipe zones of the diatreme have been preserved within tilted and faulted strata of Middle to Late Proterozoic age. Its age of intrusion is about 1178 Ma. The diatreme rock is not kimberlite but olivine lamproite which was not recognized as a primary diamond host rock until 1978. The Kalumburu Joint Venture, a syndicate of local and overseas mining companies, started in 1972 to prospect the Kimberley Block with a modest annual prospecting budget of $125,000. Annual expenditure doubled each year and reached $1 million in 1975 after which CRA took over management of the newly-formed Ashton Joint Venture with an annual expenditure of $2 million (all figures are in current US dollars). The Argyle diatreme was found near the end of the eighth field season and after a total expenditure of $12 million. Annual production is about 34 million carats which places Australia as the world's number one diamond-producing country, although, because of the low value per carat, it is number four in terms of total annual value. The global cost required for a major diamond mine is between $300 and $400 million, with a discovery every 10 to 12 years. Because Canada contains large areas of prospective platform rocks underlain by Archean basement it is likely that a major diamond deposit does exist there. It is probable that it will be found before the end of this decade and exploration expenditure may be in the order of $100 million.