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Hundreds of jobs to end as mine shuts down for good

Argyle mine workers
Argyle mine workers

A multinational resources company is permanently closing down one of its most iconic operations in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Rio Tinto has begun shutting down its Argyle Diamond Mine at Lake Argyle, 901km east of Broome. Rio confirmed production was stopped because the mine had already been exhausted of its economically viable reserves after 37 years of operation.

The proponent invited mine workers, Indigenous Australian traditional owners and others to celebrate the beginning of a five-year process to decommission, dismantle, rehabilitate, environmentally monitor, maintain and relinquish any mining leases for the site.

400+ workers affected

Only a fraction of the 400-plus mine workers will be retained in the post production phase while the rest will be offered opportunities to be retrained, redeployed to other operations, start up their own business or retire.

Safety support officer Blair Ranford is thinking about pursing a career in nature filmmaking, specialising in native wildlife.

“I have been at Argyle for over a decade now but we are heading towards closure and so we need to start thinking about what our life will be like after mining finishes,” he said on the company website.

“The beauty of the support I have been given is that it is allowed me to go out and get my full commercial drone operator certificate. That means that after Argyle closes I am going to be able to have a real crack at filming wildlife as my career – it is pretty exciting … who knows, with a bit of luck, you might see me on the TV in a year or two.”

‘World’s largest producer’

The Argyle ore body, also known as AK1, was discovered in 1979. Alluvial operations began in 1983, open pit mining began two years after. The mine became a fully underground operation in 2013.

The mine has produced more than 865 million carats of rough diamonds throughout its operating lifespan, making it one of the world’s largest producer of coloured diamonds and few sources of very small but consistent rare pink diamonds.

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“A new chapter will now begin as we start the process of respectfully closing the Argyle mine and rehabilitating the land, to be handed back to its traditional custodians,” Argyle mine general manager Andrew Wilson said in a public statement.

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