- The Quiet Summer of 2011, and Honest Work
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- Peregrine Finds 1.15 Carat Diamond at Chidliak
- Stornoway Diamond Corp. Works to Expand Resources at Renard Project
- 2010 Toronto Resource Investment Conference
- Newsworthy Week For Canadian Diamond Companies
- Different Types of Diamonds at Fort à la Corne
- Kimberlites and Diamonds of Western Canada
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Posted by David
SGF now has a 60% interest in the Fort a la Corne (FALC) property, one of the largest kimberlite clusters in the world. Newmont Mining (NYSE-NEM, TSX-NMC) holds the other 40%, but the Star property remains separate from the adjacent FALC project and is 100% owned by SGF.
SGF has come quite a ways in the past few years. They first came to significant attention with their Star kimberlite project in FALC cluster, Saskatchewan, a few years ago. With the assistance of NMC, they then bought out their neighbours with the lion’s share of the FALC cluster to the north, starting with the acquisition of Kensington Resources. They then completed their dominion over the site by buying the remainder property interest from DeBeers Canada and a couple of smaller companies. Now only a few other companies hold properties in the area, mostly around the margins. Forest Gate Resources (TSX.V-FGT) is one example.
The FALC kimberlites were discovered by Uranerz (taken over in 1998 by Cameco) in 1988 during a uranium exploration program. Later the project fell into the hands of DeBeers and Kensington Resources until the buyout a couple of years ago by SGF and NMC.
Since 1988, evaluation has been almost continuous across this cluster. In 2005, prior to the buyout, DeBeers was budgeting over $20 million annually for the project, and their share was less than 50% at that time. SGF’s 2008 share of the spending will be over twice that.
Aside from the number of kimberlites in the cluster (and thus the high tonnage), many of them diamondiferous, the other main appeal of the location is that it is close to infrastructure. Logging roads that could be upgraded cross the areas and electrical power could be easily brought in from nearby towns such as Snowden. The city of Prince Albert is only a mildly unpleasant 1.5 hour drive away. The geology of the kimberlites is interesting as they resemble a coupe-style champagne glass in cross section, rather than the more common carrot-shaped diatreme cross section seen in kimberlite pipes. This means more of the kimberlite’s volume is near the surface.
The surface I am referring to here is the surface of the kimberlite. Unfortunately for SGF and NMC, most of the kimberlite pipes lie beneath about 80 to 100 m of glacial till (boulders, sand, clay, pebbles, and cobbles). This makes getting to the kimberlite rather difficult. Drilling petrologic core (NQ, BQ, etc.) is not too much of a problem, but large samples of kimberlite (tons) are required to correctly evaluate the diamond grade. One method used at FALC is sinking a pilot mine shaft into the body (such as the case for the Star kimberlite, adjacent to the FALC project); this is too expensive to do 70+ times though. The other option is to sink a large diameter drill hole (LDDH). Using a 2’ to 3’ wide drill bit (tricone or drag bit) a hole is drilled into the kimberlite. The broken up kimberlite is moved to the surface by circulating drilling mud, washed on a screen and bagged into ~1 cubic meter parcels for later diamond analysis. Drilling through 100 m of overburden and then 100-200m of kimberlite can take from less than a week to over a month, depending on the hardness of the kimberlite, breakdowns, and weather conditions. A LDDH samples much less kimberlite than sampling from a mine shaft. Both of these methods are much more costly than the standard method of trench bulk sampling in order to determine diamond grade (ct/t) and later average diamond value (USD$/ct).
A second problem I alluded to in my first article is that of kimberlite heterogeneity in terms of diamond content. The FALC kimberlites erupted in the Cretaceous (about 100 million years ago), excavating shallow and wide craters, and infilling them with sometimes diamondiferous pyroclastic kimberlite. The advance and retreat of the inland seas of the area at that time led to geological “sorting” of the diamonds in the kimberlite craters. This results in strong variation in the diamond grade between zones in these bodies, some of which are up to 200 hectares in area, and between the bodies themselves. Diamonds would be concentrated in some zones and depleted in others as the pyroclastic sediments were reworked by the elements. The short point is that each body must be studied in higher detail than the average in order to produce an accurate grade and diamond valuation.
SGF has a current market cap of around $0.5 billion, half of what it used to be. The $50+ million that is SGF’s share of the FALC budget will be difficult to meet with only $32.3 million in cash on hand as of December 31st, 2007. Getting financing may be difficult with the credit shortfall that now characterizes the market and shareholders will definitely be opposed to further dilution at stock levels that they surely feel are undervalued. Commercial diamond production, along with positive cash flow appears to be a long way off. SGF and NMC still have a large amount of money to spend before they can get together an accurate idea of the $ value per ton for the whole property. This is in addition to the fact that compared to some other diamond properties in Canada, such as Diavik (2-4 c/t), Ekati (1-3.8 c/t), and Snap Lake (1.2 c/t), the grades for the FALC pipes are rather low: Approximately 0.2 c/t on average and 0.1605 c/t from a recent report on underground shaft sampling at the Orion South kimberlite. To be fair, a number of diamonds from FALC have been of significant size. For example, a 6.31 c stone was recovered during the aforementioned analysis and a 15.88 c stone was reported earlier this month. These large diamonds significantly increase the average USD$/c value of the bodies that contain them, but are there enough of these stones to offset low grade and high evaluation costs?
From my perspective looking forward a few years, the light at the end of the tunnel for the FALC project appears very dim indeed. It seems management is making some good decisions in trying to develop the richest pipes (Orion, Star, etc.) first, but even those are not fully understood in terms of their potential net $/ton value, if there is any.
With the recent credit woes and their crushing effect on diamond exploration stocks (see an earlier post), the market is saturated with exciting diamond plays. As things are now, there seems to be so many other places with better upside to put money into. After taking a good hard look at Shore Gold, things are looking not so sure.
Disclaimer: The author holds 1000 shares of FGT, but no stock in SGF or NMC. The opinions expressed in this article are personal in nature and are based on his research and experience. Please do your own due diligence when trading securities.