Sunrise at De Beers' Chidliak project on Baffin Island. Courtesy of De Beers Canada

De Beers Canada is looking into making its newly acquired Chidliak project a completely renewable energy-powered mine.

 “The new project we’ve just acquired, our goal is ‘Can we make that 100 per cent renewable?’” CEO Kim Truter said in his keynote speech at the sixth annual Energy and Mines World Congress in Toronto.

 Chidliak was the prize for De Beers when it purchased junior miner Peregrine Diamonds in July.

 Chidliak, a diamond deposit with 74 identified kimberlite pipes so far – including the CH-6 and CH-7 pipes that have been the focus of Peregrine’s phase one development program – is located 120 kilometres northeast of Iqaluit on Baffin Island. That area of Nunavut is completely diesel reliant, Truter said. Making the mine run fully on renewable energy will require a complete rethink.

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 “The more we’ve applied our minds to this problem, the more we’ve found you have to change your thinking about how you mine,” Truter said. “You cannot keep thinking conventionally.”

 He said the company will have to look at “radical solutions” like dramatically reducing the footprint of the mine, including eliminating the need for haul trucks, not building a road from Nunavut’s capital city – a major contributor to overall carbon emissions of the project – and making the site fly-in only by helicopters.

 He also compared the size of a regular process plant to the company’s latest thinking about what Chidliak’s could look like; on a slide presentation, the concept was just a fraction of the size.

 “Once you [reduce the mine footprint], 100 per cent renewable becomes possible,” he later told CIM Magazine on the sidelines of the event.

 He said De Beers will work to include complete renewable power in its eventual feasibility study for Chidliak.

Chidliak’s potential power mix would be a significant change for the company. Its Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake mines in the Northwest Territories are powered exclusively by diesel. The company’s Victor mine in Ontario, closing next year, draws from the province’s grid, a mix of nuclear and hydro power.

Truter said in his keynote the company has been optimizing its existing mines to improve their energy footprints. “We have quite strong energy reduction targets,” he said, “but truth be told, that’s tinkering around the edges.”

 He said a “perfect storm” of new government regulations to fight carbon emissions and increasing investor and consumer demands for more sustainably mined goods – specifically in the diamond sector – had created a “strong case” for major change in the mining sector.

 “As we build this new project we’ll be trying everything in our power to change our footprint, change the way we mine and to dramatically change the dial,” he said.