Construction and commissioning of the N.W.T.'s Gahcho Kue diamond mine — De Beers' next foray into Northern diamond mining after the troubled Snap Lake project — is 87 per cent complete, says Mountain Province Diamonds, De Beers' partner on Gahcho Kue.

The last loads of "critical large mining equipment" made it across the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road and the spur road branching east toward Gahcho Kue last week, according to a press release issued Monday by Mountain Province Diamonds. The mine is located 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. 

Production at Gahcho Kue is on track to begin in the second half of 2016, with production expected to last over 12 years. 

In December, De Beers announced it was shuttering the financially-troubled Snap Lake diamond mine after only seven years of its projected 20-year mine life.

More than 400 workers faced layoffs, but some workers were transferred to the Gahcho Kue project. The company says Snap Lake could remain under care and maintenance for three years or more. The mine's financial prospects will be reviewed in late 2016.

Gahcho Kue is both different and similar to Snap Lake. Gahcho Kue is an open pit mine, while Snap Lake is an underground mine.

But both ore bodies are located beneath lakes — a factor that made it challenging to operate Snap Lake.