Alongside the East Kimberley's wealth of natural wonders is one of the state's most unique tourist attractions- Rio Tinto's Argyle diamond mine. Argyle Diamonds play a major role in the Kununurra community, with support and sponsorship of various East Kimberley events.
In support of the local tourism industry, the Argyle diamond mine is open to visitors on guided tours departing from Kununurra. A day trip to the mine will give visitors a rare insight into the scope of a large mining operation and the history of its relationship with Traditional Owners.
Video by Rio Tinto - visit their website here for more information about Argyle Diamonds and their importance to the Kununrra and East Kimberley region.
Argyle Diamonds - One of the World's Largest Mines
The Argyle diamond mine, 100% owned by Rio Tinto, is one of the world's largest suppliers of diamonds, producing approximately 20 million carats each year from its operations in the East Kimberley Region, in the remote north of Western Australia.
Argyle employs approximately 750 employees with the majority working at the mine site. Argyle commenced mining its main ore body in 1985, and has since produced more than 750 million carats of diamonds. The majority of which are destined for the jewellery industry.
Pink and Coloured Diamonds
Argyle is the world's primary source of the highly prized, rare pink diamond which has become Argyle's signature stone. Sought-after by collectors, investors and connoisseurs the world-over, the finest pink stones are retained by the company in Perth, where they are cut and polished in Argyle's own facility and sold by international tender. These exquisite signature stones vary in colour from pale pink to intense purple reds and command prices up to twenty times that of a white diamond.
Argyle is also the world's largest producer of natural champagne and cognac diamonds. The US, the world's largest diamond jewellery market, has demonstrated a large appetite for Argyle's champagne diamonds.
Argyle Diamond Mine and Aboriginal Land Owners
One of Argyle Diamond's most important relationships is with the Traditional Owners of the mining lease. The signing in 2005 of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Participation Agreement between Argyle and Traditional Owners of the mining lease area was an important step towards the goal of sustainability. It formally established a relationship between the two parties that will help deliver long-term economic benefits to Aboriginal communities in the East Kimberley, while protecting Aboriginal cultural and environmental interests throughout the life of the mine.
This includes supporting community development initiatives that will improve social and economic prospects for Aboriginal communities, and forging partnerships with local Aboriginal people to manage the environmental and cultural impact of mining activities. The Argyle lease occupies the traditional lands of the Gidja and Mirriuwung people.
Argyle believes it has the capacity - and the responsibility - to make a positive and long-term difference to its stakeholders. This approach is lead by Argyle's Chief Operating Officer, Kevin McLeish, who strongly believes that organisations such as Argyle must show respect and concern for the environments in which they operate, and for the people that their business activities impact upon.
Because Argyle operates in a region of significant economic and social disadvantage, one of the organisation's key priorities is to help build a stronger and more robust East Kimberley economy, that is not dependent upon the mine's operations. To this end, it is initiating training, employment and business development programs, especially for Indigenous people, which will improve the region's skills base and increase the number and profile of self-sustaining businesses. It is also building partnerships with local organisations, communities and businesses to develop health and education programs that will improve social outcomes in areas of greatest need. Finally, it is supporting Traditional Owners to become the drivers of economic and community development, so that growth and improvement will continue for Aboriginal communities long after Argyle has 'closed up shop'.
Construction of the underground block-cave mine commenced immediately after approval by Rio Tinto and is expected to be completed in 2010. By 2010, the organisation aims to have 80 per cent of its workforce East Kimberley based, and expects half of this workforce to be Indigenous. Once in production, the underground mine will extend Argyle's mine life to at least 2018.