Production is ‘ramping up’ at the Gahcho Kué diamond mine 280 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife with the mine expected to reach a commercial level of production in the first quarter of 2017.

On Wednesday, De Beers Canada and Mountain Province Diamonds announced that the mine has already started producing diamonds.

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That means the project has made the significant move from construction and commissioning to actually putting ore in the plant.

“The project remains on track to reach full commercial operation in the first quarter of 2017,” read a statement issued by both companies this week.

Gahcho Kué is De Beers’ second diamond mine in the NWT after the shuttered Snap Lake and its third project in Canada.

Once fully operational, the mine is expected to have a steady workforce of around 500 people and produce an average of 4.5 million carats per year over the life of the mine.

Last December, De Beers was forced to shut down production at its unsuccessful Snap Lake mine roughly 90 kilometers from the Gahcho Kué site.

At the time, more than 400 people faced layoffs though some were transferred to De Beers’ new project.

Company officials are confident Gahcho Kué – an open-pit mine – will be much more successful than Snap, which was long plagued by water issues and costs associated with operating underground.

A grand opening for Gahcho Kué is expected to be announced in the coming months.