De Beers' new Canadian diamond mine delayed

March 20 Thu Mar 20, 2014 6:38pm EDT

March 20 (Reuters) - First production at De Beers' Gahcho Kue diamond mine in northern Canada could move to early 2017 because of shipping delays, the Anglo American Plc unit's chief executive, Phillipe Mellier, said in an interview.

The mine had once been expected to start producing around December 2015, but regulatory restrictions limited shipments to Gahcho Kue this winter, delaying construction.

Having missed this year's short shipping season, De Beers is hoping to get the approvals it needs to truck in more equipment and material next winter.

"We hope things are going to move. We are confident they will move in the right direction," said Mellier.

Mellier said he expects production to start at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.

In recent years the ice road that brings heavy equipment and supplies like cement and steel to northern Canada's diamond mines has only operated for about two months a year. It's one of many logistical challenges miners face in the harsh climate.

Gahcho Kue was approved by Canada's federal government in October 2013, and won a key permit in December, but it is still waiting on a water license.

De Beers' minority partner in the mine, Mountain Province Diamonds Inc, said in January that if the shipping problem could not be solved, first production might be delayed to the third quarter of 2016. (Reporting by Silvia Antonioli in London and Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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