On the back of a fourth-quarter push in diamond production that increased 58% year-on-year and 21% compared to Q3 2017, Rio Tinto ended the year 2017 with a 20% rise in rough diamond production to 21.63 million carats from 17.95 million carats in 2016. In Q4 alone, Rio Tinto unearthed 7.21 million of those 21.63 million carats, a tremendous increase over the 4.57 million carats extracted in the same period a year earlier. Rio Tinto is forecasting 2018 diamond production at 17 to 20 million carats.
Rio Tinto's Argyle mine did much of the heavy lifting, as 2017 carat production was 23 percent higher than 2016, "due to the additional processing of higher grade alluvial tailings." Rough diamond production at Argyle totaled 6.146 million carats in Q4 alone, a 71% increase over Q4 2016 and a 29% jump over Q3 2017. Total carat production at Argyle in 2017 reached 17.135 million carats, a 23% increase over 2016. At the Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada's remote Northwest Territories in which Rio Tinto owns a 60 percent interest (Dominion Diamond Mines 40%) and operates, the miner unearthed 1.06 million carats in Q4 and 4.492 million carats for the year 2017, representing a 7% and 12% increase respectively. The miner attributed the 12 percent rise in Diavik production to higher recovered grades. Development of the A21 pipe remains on schedule.