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PDAC 2011 – this March

Posted by David

Hello and happy New Year!

Sorry for the delay in posts.

This year’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) main convention is March 6th to 9th. It is at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s south building. Delegates can register HERE for the conference. For the non-student or non-senior, the convention can be a little pricey, but day passes can be had for ~$81 and the Investor’s Exchange portion is free.

For those of you who purchase full access to the convention be sure to check out the Technical Sessions. They are often quite good and have excellent speakers on relevant topics. A list of the sessions is HERE. Other sessions include the CSR Event Series, the Aboriginal Program, an Open Session, and an Innovation Forum. Ten short courses/workshops also occur just before and after the convention itself.

Sessions mentioning diamond exploration/mining are:

  • 21 years of Canadian diamonds: Coming of age? – room 716, Monday March 7th, 2-4 pm
  • New geoscience in support of exploration in the Canadian Shield North of 60⁰ – room 716, Tuesday March 8th, 9 am-noon
  • Africa – room 713, Tuesday March 8th, 10 am

Major and minor diamond producers/explorers typically have booths at the PDAC. Some of the usual suspects from past years include Rio Tinto, Harry Winston, Stornoway, Shear, Shore Gold, Peregrine, and BHP Billiton. For those unfamiliar with this convention, it is the premier mining and exploration convention in North America and is not to be missed for those working in or investing in the industry.

Make sure to sign up by this Friday (February 4th) as the prices for most admission types go up after that. Happy investing.

Disclaimer: Relevant comments are welcome and encouraged. Spam comments will be deleted. This article is based on the opinions and experience of the author. Please conduct due diligence when investing. ©KIM Report 2011 www.kimreport.com


Diamonds, General Comments(0) February 1, 2011 4:47 pm

Improved Outlook to be Seen at PDAC 2010

Posted by David

This Sunday March 7th to Wednesday March 10th will see the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and its environs overrun with geologists, students, executives, reporters, salesmen, and the much-maligned investor relations personnel at this year’s PDAC International Convention.

While the trade show section is prohibitively expensive for most ($210-$710, seniors and students get in cheap), the other half of the show, the Investor’s Exchange is free. This sections is where all of the publicly traded mining companies have their booths. They range in size from independent prospectors, exploration-juniors (PC Gold, Diamonds North Resources, Terrane Metals), near-production juniors (Stornoway Diamond Corporation, Shore Gold), producing intermediates (Yamana Gold, New Gold, Harry Winston, Thompson Creek Metals), and large-caps (Rio Tinto, Goldcorp, Vale). For an idea of participating companies and the show layout, check out their Virtual PDAC Interactive Floorplan and Event Planner. Booth space in both sections of the event are completely sold out. I suppose the minerals industry hasn’t imploded after all.

As an independent investor, this is your chance to speak with company management face-to-face, handle the rocks (see the Core Shack exhibit), and meet other investor’s and geologists. Whether you are happy or displeased with a company’s performance, this is the event in the mining and minerals exploration industry. Though, from a student’s point of view, I routinely recommend not eating at the convention as the food is typically awful and overpriced in my experience. Check out the Royal York Hotel in the evenings for any after-hours festivities.

For diamond bugs, drop in on the Monday afternoon series of talks 2-4pm in room 716. Some true gems (pardon the pun) are there to spread their wisdom. Kimberlite petrologists, gemologists, and CEOs make an appearance.

Let me know how you did at the PDAC…


General Comments(1) February 25, 2010 7:12 pm

The Summer Exploration Season – Sans Fanfare

Posted by David

Now that commodities have recovered slightly and the stock indexes appear to be climbing out of the financial hole that was March 2009, investors – both institutional and individual, appear to be breathing some life into the mining juniors that have been so beaten down. The ones that remain solvent anyways.

On the diamond front, things are pretty quiet. Gold and silver, followed by base metals, have been attracting most of the press in regards to this resurgence. The return of capital to the diamond industry has been pretty subdued. However, this is not to say that is has been forgotten.

Diamonds Resurgent

An example is with Harry Winston Diamond Corp. that has seen is share price double to about $7/share in the past couple of months when some smart investors thought it may not be a bad idea to hold share in one of the highest grade gem diamond mines in the world (their retail arm notwithstanding). Kinross had the right idea when it acquired a 19.9% stake in the company during the lows of March.

Motapa Diamonds Inc., a junior diamond explorer in Lesotho has also doubled since the New Year as it is in the process of being acquired by Lucara Diamond Corp. (TSX.V-LUC). Their Mothae project draws many parallels with that of the nearby Letseng mine, well-know for its relatively abundant diamonds of exceptional size and quality (about 20c).

Gearing Up For a Recovery

The Canadian exploration front has been even more low-key. The only significant new find has been Peregrine Diamond’s Chidliak property on southern Baffin Island as discussed in a previous article. Other juniors are conserving their cash and focusing on their best projects. Stornoway recently announced that it would commence further drilling on their Renard project to prove up their case for a mine there. The only other project they are looking at now is the Aviat kimberlite complex on the Melville Peninsula in Nunavut having gotten some promising number from samples taken there last year. Smaller companies are having to conduct private placements at still-low share prices in order to pay for critical work on their properties. Such is the case with Dianor Resources issuing shares at $0.10 to pay in part for a 50 000 t bulk sample at their diamond-bearing Leadbetter conglomerate property near Wawa, Ontario.

Stagnation of Diamond Prospecting in Canada

Comparatively speaking, other companies have not had it so rosy. Shear Minerals is looking at a dearth of funding for its main project: Churchill after its partner, Stornoway, decided not to participate in the recent exploration season in order to fund the abovementioned projects. Like many other companies that previously had diamonds as their sole focus, Diamonds North has been looking at the potential for metals on its properties in the Arctic after some samples this winter showed an unexpected scarcity of diamonds. To round things off, Shore Gold, a classic punching-bag/favourite for many diamond investors is still trying to figure out how to reconcile low grades with ~100m of glacial overburden atop their kimberlites in Saskatchewan. Although they did recover a 7.99 c diamond from a mini-bulk sample recently taken by large diameter drilling to add to their promising repertoire of large diamonds found in the Fort a la Corne cluster. A more thorough discussion of the Fort a la Corne kimberlites can be found here.

Choose Your Partners Wisely

A third set of companies with promising properties appear to be in limbo. Mountain Province Diamonds Inc. is still at loggerheads with partner De Beers over the timeline from the rich Gahcho Kue diamond deposit in the Northwest Territories in spite of an updated mineral resource estimate released in late May. DeBeers is having a headache of its own through its majority holding of thinly-traded Archangel Diamonds Corp. with continued legal struggles with Russian companies (chiefly LUKoil) over the massive Grib diamond deposit in northwest Russia. De Beers, like many other companies seeking to do business in Russia, is learning that when you get into bed with Ivan (particularly on his turf); he usually ends up on top.

Recovery is a long way away. Especially in the diamond sector as it was already lagging near the tail end of the resource bubble that popped last year. But as with panning for diamonds, the companies with little weight and substance will be washed away by the financial currents and the gems will be left behind.

Disclaimer: The author owns shares in HW, SWY, and SRM. This article is based on the personal opinions and experience of the author. Please conduct due diligence when investing. ©KIM Report 2009 www.kimreport.com


Diamonds Comments(0) June 11, 2009 5:41 pm

Selling Diamonds at the PDAC

Posted by David

Diamonds were the focus of two sets of talks at the PDAC. The first was a more general discussion that dealt with varied topics such as threats to producers in the form of treated and synthetic stones, science in diamond exploration, the new Chidliak (Peregrine & BHP) discovery, and the diamond industry and its relation the to market in general. The second was a series of presentations by various diamond juniors and their properties.

Turnout for the first talk was surprisingly low, considering the reputation of the speakers, less surprisingly was the even lower turnout to the second series. However, some very good presentations were given and some interesting trends began to appear in the nature of the industry:

1. The diamond industry IS hurting. That is a no-brainer considering how every other mining sector is doing (with the possible exception of gold right now). Currently there is a glut of diamonds in the possession of the cutters right now and the consumer, -you, are not buying. Yes people continue to get married even in tough economic times, but that diamond on the engagement ring will be smaller. Less disposable income = lower consumer spending.

2. The aforementioned hurt has led to a serious slowdown in the discovery and development of diamond deposits. The collapsed diamond prices have led to a short term situation where long term supply will be affected.

3. In regards to that long term view, diamond mines are painstaking to develop. They require more proving-work than any metal commodity and have a discovery to production timeline of at least ten years.

4. This slowdown in the development process is coupled with the lack of world-class discoveries/openings since Diavik (Rio Tinto & Harry Winston) in 2001. The two biggest resources in terms of report value in the pipeline now are Grib (Lukoil & Archangel: TSX.V-AAD), Russia, and Fort a la Corne (Shore Gold & Newmont), Canada. Other developments include the reopening of the Letseng (Gem Diamonds: LSE-GMD) diamond mine, and the sampling of the Mothae kimberlite (Motapa: TSX.V-MTP), both in Lesotho, and the continuing development of the Renard project in Quebec into a mine (Stornoway & SOQUEM).

5. These projects are still 2-8 years before any chance of production, but that may be a good thing as it will be at least 3 years until diamond prices recover from their recent 40% drop. Imagine what would happen if gold went below $600/oz. in a few months.

6. These low diamond prices also mean that companies are holding off on having their projects evaluated in terms of US$/carat.

7. Two types of deposits that did see some focus at the conference are deposits with low grade, but very high diamond value, and those with very low production costs. Diamonds from Letseng are quite rare, but typically high quality. Values can reach up to $2000/c. Motapa and Shore Gold are hoping to enter this low grade – high value club as well. An interesting thing about these rare diamonds is that they appeal to the extremely wealthy, who are more insulated from economic cycles. Companies with low-mining cost projects include Dianor (TSX.V-DOR), who are developing their paleoplacer (old river deposit) Leadbetter diamond resource near Wawa, Ontario, and Mexivada (TSX.V-MNV, Frankfurt-M2Q) with younger placer projects in Sierra Leone. Placer deposits are usually alluvial (river-related) and can concentrate other heavy minerals, such as gold. Placer diamonds are typically higher in value than ones from kimberlites because transport tends to destroy brittle/cracked/included ones.

The key thing now is that companies are balancing keeping in the black with continuing to add value to their projects. The long development time for diamond deposits means that these companies cannot afford to waste 1-2 years due to market conditions. Smart companies are focusing their resources for their most promising resources. Ones that will ensure cash flow as soon as possible.

The lack of attention given to the diamond industry by institutional investors has led to extreme undervaluation in some cases, even at current diamond prices. This represents an opportunity for the individual investor with a 2-4 year outlook to make some serious coin. However, there are a number of diamond juniors out there that have extremely speculative projects and consumers must carefully weigh their expected returns with the risk they are undertaking. More advanced projects carry less risk, but also less expected return. Investors have to take advantage of mispricing by the market due to short term concerns and engage in due diligence to maximize their profits

Disclaimer: The author holds 4000 shares of SWY and 20 shares of HW. He wishes he bought some PGD shares a few months back, but life is far from perfect. This article is based on the opinions and experience of the author. Please conduct due diligence when investing.


Silver Linings

Posted by David

During this seemingly never-ending drop in equity prices, many analysts are recommending that now is the time to buy stocks as so many solid companies are trading at deep discounts. But what companies does one invest in currently? In terms of resource stocks, most are trading at 70-90% below their stock price last winter. Metal prices have yet to properly recover and most producers have either gone to great lengths in cutting production costs or have shut down their operations. Explorers have also strongly cut back on projects for 2009 or have gone into “hibernation mode” in an effort to preserve their remaining cash until this crisis abates and future private placements can be made.

There are some case examples for optimism however: Harry Winston recently reported net earnings of $1.17/share for Q3 compared to loss of $0.13/share in the previous year’s quarter. Retail jewellery sales offset decreased earnings from sales of rough diamonds due to decreased production resulting from grade variation in the main kimberlite pipe at the Diavik mine: A-154 South. Another case is the small-cap silver producer Great Panther Resources, mentioned in an earlier case study article, that has managed to reduce their operating costs from about $11/oz. to $7.40/oz. in the face of <$10/oz. silver (although we have seen a bit of recovery in the metals over the course of the week). However, news of this was later added to by the announcement of dilution in the form of a $2.7 million private placement. On the exploration end, Shear Minerals continues to discover more kimberlites with high diamond counts on its Churchill property. But, as with Great Panther, this was also followed by the announcement by Shear of a $1.18 million private placement and thus shareholders would see further dilution. In the meantime, Shear’s JV partner at Churchill, Stornoway Diamond Corp. has decided to focus the bulk of its resources into developing its Renard property into a mine. Although its Aviat project on the Melville Peninsula is a definite target for further exploration in 2009. True North Gems is preparing its Aappaluttoq ruby project in Greenland for mine permitting. This will allow them to sell the large stockpile of gems they have acquired from sampling over the past few years. Diamonds North, buoyed by high diamond counts from some of their kimberlites this year, is planning for a modest exploration program in 2009 and is currently working on finishing this year’s mini-bulk sampling program. There are many other companies like those aforementioned that are meeting or exceeding their stated goals. Positive news releases (e.g. this one), however, are promptly ignored by the market -or at least the retail investors.

An unavoidable fact is that the manufacturing and housing sectors are in a tight retraction worldwide. Commodities used in these fields: base metals, iron, aluminum, petroleum, and even some precious metals (silver, PGEs) will continue to see lessened demand as consumers disappear. Many analysts suggest that the US dollar is due for a significant collapse due to the variety of debts piled on America by the Bush government. Traditionally, this would cause investors to flock to precious metals (primarily gold) and other forms of solid investments (diamonds, other rare gemstones, etc.) in order to preserve their capital until the malaise has passed. This bodes well for companies mining and exploring for these commodities. Another silver lining to this recession is that low oil prices have given miners and explorers a break in operating costs via cheaper fuel.

The real challenge is in determining which of these companies will survive the downturn until they can start to benefit from increased demand. Factors to look for are a strong treasury, a demonstrated history of cutting costs, a willingness to open new revenue streams, and management ownership. Management must make serious decisions on whether to conserve cash and limit exploration activities or to spend to continue adding value to their properties. Often the latter involves offering new shares at the currently extremely low market prices in order to raise that cash as banks loans are not forthcoming.

Currently, there are excellent opportunities for investment in mining and exploration stocks. In particular, there is potential in the diamonds sector as it was already undervalued prior to the current crisis and diamond prices are more firm than that of other commodities. A final factor to consider is that tax-loss selling at the end of this year will result in further devaluation of many companies, adding to the allure for bargain hunters. For those who actually have cash left to invest at this point, a long term (3-5 yrs) outlook is mandatory. Those who do their homework and invest in a non-reactionary fashion will definitely benefit when this bear turns into a bull.

Disclaimer: The author holds 20 shares of HW, 4000 of SWY, 500 of SRM, 500 of GPR, and 1000 of TGX., most of which were bought at much higher prices than current. This article is based on the opinion and experience of the author. Please do your own due diligence when investing.


Diamond report from New Nadina needs some polish

Posted by David

Last Monday, New Nadina Explorations Ltd. (TSX.V-NNA), a diamond explorer, published results from a microdiamond assay of core from the optimistically named “Bling” kimberlite in the Lac De Gras region of the Northwest Territories. The Lac De Gras Region was the site of the first significant diamond discoveries in Canada, and is home to the Ekati (BHP Billiton) and Diavik (Rio Tinto and Harry Winston) diamond mines. The Bling kimberlite is located on the Monument Diamond Project in the Blue Pearl Cluster, and is the sixth such body to be discovered there. NNA owns 57.49% of the project. Chris Jennings, famous for his diamond finds in southern Africa and somewhat mixed results Canada, owns 22.11% along with his wife, Jeanne. Archon Minerals Ltd. (TSX.V-ACS), run by Stewart Blusson, co-discoverer of the Ekati Mine with Chuck Fipke, owns the remaining 20.4%.

 

Petrologically, the Bling kimberlite is pyroclastic (diatreme/crater) facies kimberlite, i.e. post-eruption/non-magmatic. The kimberlite was intersected during drilling of a 45º angled core hole from 171 m to 203 m. It contains abundant coarse olivine, pyrope, and chromium-rich diopside, minerals strongly associated with the mantle. But are they associated with diamonds in this case? The large size of many of crystals, up to 2 cm in diameter, indicates that they are possibly not fragments of diamondiferous peridotite xenoliths brought up by the kimberlite, but rather they are related to the kimberlite. Such grains are often termed megacrysts. Ergo, this information does not say much about potential for diamond abundance or lack thereof, although chemical analysis of said megacrysts could (but that is for another article).

 

However, upon later correspondence with Mr. Kivi, the P.Geo. in charge of the project,  it was stated that these large crystals are likely not to be megacrysts as stated above, but rather that they are likely to be from deep mantle origins, ~200 km depth. If this is the cases, then Bling would have sampled a very large column of mantle in the diamond stability field, greatly increasing the chances of entraining diamonds upon the kimberlites ascent. It still remains, however, that chemical analysis of these grains is required to prove things either way.

 

What is interesting, are the 23 mantle xenoliths of lherzolite and harzburgite, incorrectly spelt in the report as “lhertzolite” and “hartzburgite”, respectively. Harzburgite (G10 garnet association), and to a lesser extent lherzolite (G9 garnet association), are the major parent rocks that diamond forms in, prior to ascent to the surface in a kimberlite (most cases) or lamproite (rare cases, e.g. Argyle in Australia). The presence of potential parent rocks for diamonds as xenoliths in a kimberlite is a good indicator for diamonds.

 

The best indicator for diamond in a kimberlite is diamond itself. The concentration of diamond is so low in kimberlite (0.2 g/t is considered a good mining grade as 0.2 g = 1 c) that microscopic (<1 mm) diamond counts are used to extrapolate the larger diamond content of a kimberlite when dealing with small sample sizes, such as drill core. The 120.25 kg sample of core assayed in the report held 67 diamonds greater than 0.106 mm in size. By plotting the microdiamond counts against the size classes, it is possible to extrapolate the distribution of diamonds towards higher sizes (see below; data from the 0.6, 1.18, 1.7, and 2.36 sieves have been omitted to correctly fit the trend line as they were zero values).

 

The power-type trend line here produced a fairly good fit with the data and has an R2 value of 0.9897 (1 is perfect). Extrapolating to the 1 mm size class gives ~1.56 diamonds of that size. It is possible to take this estimation a little further. The mass of a roughly spherical diamond 1 mm in diameter is 0.0000092 carats. Thus there are ~0.0000143 carats of diamond in this size class. With respect to diamonds of this size, the grade for the sample is 0.00012 c/t. A full grade estimate could be obtained by repeating this process for every significant (i.e. economic) size class and adding the grades together. Although the grades would become rapidly smaller with increasing diamond size due to the nature of the distribution. The problem with this particular sample is that not enough data exists to get a strong estimate of the diamond population. The sample is not large enough. Small samples are extremely vulnerable to the “nugget effect” were the presence or absence of one or two larger stones can totally skew the numbers away from the actual value. As things stand now, this sample is useful for showing that the Bling kimberlite is diamondiferous to some degree, but inconclusive beyond that. The next step for NNA and its JV partners is to try and obtain a mini-bulk sample in the 10’s of tonnes.

 

Looking at this company as a potential investor with some background in the field, there are a number of troubling issues:

 

1. The insinuation that the presence of megacrysts is indicative of diamond potential. As mentioned above, this is not true. Research suggests that megacrysts are a product of crystallization of the “proto-kimberlite” at depth in the mantle prior to ascent, and not the product of disaggregation on mantle xenoliths, diamondiferous or otherwise. Even with Mr. Kivi’s argument that these are not megacrysts, but indeed deep xenocrysts/xenoliths, the company has yet to publish any evidence either way. If this was the case, then why was this explanation not included in the press release? The company would have likely been better off not mentioning these characteristics of the kimberlite at all until they had determined their exact relevance. These crystals may turn out to be indicative of bling at Bling, or be a red herring.

 

2. The incorrect spelling of geologic terms such as harzburgite and lherzolite. Also using the term “chrome diopside” when in fact chromium-rich or chromian diopside is the proper term. Chrome is what you get when you plate chromium or an alloy of it onto another metal, e.g. steel. Yes, it seems like a small thing, and it may be just the fault of the fellow they hire to run IR, but where is the P.Geo. who is supposed to look over and sign off on each report? If the trained, accredited professional is not catching these obvious mistakes in material released to the public, what about the stuff that is not made public?

 

3. The mediocre results on the monument property. Finding a diamondiferous kimberlite is not terribly news-breaking anymore. Please see an earlier article on Diamonds North regarding this. Many other juniors out there, Stornoway, Peregrine, and Shear Minerals to name a few, have far more established properties. Some of these have established grades and even diamond valuations.

 

Concerning items (1) and (2), it is tempting to regard these as oversights, as Mr. Blusson and Mr. Jennings have years of experience and have both found diamond mines in the past. They also are not part of NNA, but only JV partners on the project. With regards to (3) I do realize that this is a very small junior and is working diligently to find and expand upon potential diamond deposits. It is impressive to note that NNA did manage to get assays back in less than two months from the discovery of the Bling kimberlite. Given the current harsh market for diamond explorers and producers NNA cannot afford to even make small mistakes that would possibly dampen the interest of potential investors. It may be that further work on the Monument Project or one of their other properties will bear fruit, but NNA’s lack of oversight on minor things that are easy to catch could leave some investors eyeing the competency of the people in charge with some suspicion.

 

Disclaimer: The author holds no shares of NNA. This article is based on the personal opinions and experience of the author. Please do your own due diligence when investing.

 

 

 

 


Diamonds Comments(0) June 23, 2008 4:45 pm

The Stornoway without a Dion

Posted by David

To use an overused comparison in these current market climes, the diamond sector is the Rodney Dangerfield of mining stocks as it “don’t get no respect”. In this way, the diamond juniours are much like the official opposition (for the non-Canadian readers, Stornoway is also the name for the official residence of the leader of the opposition, currently Stephane Dion). To give a more focused discussion of the issue than did a previous article, presented is the case of Stornoway Diamonds (TSX-SWY).

 

The stock has been on a fairly steady decline since this time last year going from ~$1.20/share to about $0.37/share at current. Even the news that acclaimed diamond consultants – WWW International Diamond Consultants Ltd., had upped the estimated valuations for diamonds from the Renard kimberlites (Renard, together with the Lynx dykes, comprises the Foxtrot Property in Central Quebec, and is a 50/50 joint venture with SOQUEM Inc.) only caused a mere blip up from 0.35 to 0.43 that evaporated in the last two weeks.

 

In detail, the report displayed increased values for diamonds from Renard 2 and 3 (from U.S. $109/c to $121/c) and The North Complex Zone of Renard 4 ($69/c to $79/c), increases of 11% and 14% respectively. Since the pullback after the news, the stock has bounced around the mid thirty cent level. So what gives? The predominant idea here is that since last summer, most investors are still very wary of juniours, even ones with established and advance projects such as Foxtrot and, to a lesser extent, Churchill (joint venture with Shear Minerals). For Renard, the pre-feasibility study (NI 43-101 compliant) is due out sometime during this quarter and many investors may be waiting on that. The cost of a road to the potential mine site is one of the most speculated values.

 

Aside from Renard, the other properties in the Foxtrot property hold promise as well. The Lynx series of dykes produced a grade of 1.07 c/t from a 494 t bulk sample. Not enough sampling has been done to allow for a diamond valuation, but the sample did include a gem-quality octahedron weighing in at a whopping 21.53 c (pictured). 22 c brown octahedron from Lynx, source: www.stornowaydiamonds.comA minibulk sample from the Hibou dyke, 1.3 km from the Renard bodies (see map), gave a grade of 1.26 c/t from 30.4 t of kimberlite. The largest stone from this sample was a 1.01 c octahedron.

 

After Renard, the next most advanced property is the Churchill project (JV with Shear Minerals), a series of kimberlite dykes located in the Churchill craton in Nunavut. This property was discussed the earlier Arctic Diamonds and Churchill articles.

 

SWY also holds a number of other advanced-level diamond prospects. The most promising of these is the group of eleven kimberlite bodies at Aviat on the Melville Peninsula, North of the aforementioned Churchill project. What really is really interesting about this project lately is the dense media separation results from January 2008 that reported a grade of 1.63 c/t from 20.6 t taken from the AV267 body, and included a 3.64 c stone. AV267 is a sheet-shaped body of macrocrystic hypabyssal kimberlite. Thus far, drilling has delineated AV267 to have an average thickness of 3 m and to extend at least 2000m along  strike and 500 m down dip (dip angle is 8-20 degrees). This is similar to the body at Snap Lake. Kahuna at Churchill is also similar in deposit shape, but it is a vertical sheet instead of the subhorizontal one at Aviat. The project began as a JV with SWY, BHP Billiton, and Hunter Exploration Group (a private firm). Last month SWY acquired BHP’s share of the project, making the split now 90% SWY and 10% Hunter. SWY also have 100% of the marketing rights for any Aviat stones.

 

SWY made news a couple of years back due to its aggressive takeover of Ashton Mining Canada. The main gain in this for SWY was the acquisition of Ashton’s share in the Foxtrot Project. SWY also gets a lot of press coverage because of its CEO, Eira Thomas, a celebrity in the diamond exploration industry due to her part in the discovery of the Diavik mine working for the then-juniour exploration company Aber Diamonds (now Harry Winston Diamonds). Her background and media appeal have made her popular with the press in an industry where companies are usually run by stolid old white guys. The acquisition of Ashton did not only add just properties to the company, but talent as well. Tom McCandless, a renowned and well-published specialist on North American diamonds (read Barren Lands by Kevin Krajick), stayed on with SWY as a consultant after the takeover and is now their chief mineralogist. Matt Manson, formerly VP marketing/technical services & control for Aber (now Harry Winston), came into SWY through the acquisition of Contact Diamond Corporation and is now company president.

 

In spite of these promising results and experienced management, SWY, like most diamond juniours, has been beaten into the ground. With the price at a severe low, investors will either shy away or look at the situation as a buying opportunity. SWY previously has been the focus of a lot of vitriol on investor bulletin boards such as www.stockhouse.com due to its aggressive takeover of Ashton, but shareholder crankiness aside, this is not the cause of the perceived downside.

 

SWY’s number one project is Foxtrot, specifically Renard. As a mine becomes more of a distinct possibility, the need for financing becomes impossible to ignore. Road and electricity access must be established, buildings erected, and equipment purchased. This will likely cost into the hundreds of millions of dollars. As of January 31st, SWY had just under $18 million in cash and equivalents. Financing by dilution at current prices is unlikely, as management is a significant stockholder and do not want to see their equity devastated. That leaves turning to banks and the like for funds to construct the mine. The “subprime slime” that still sticks to financial institutions makes getting a loan far more difficult now than this time last year. However, considering the experience of the management and the premium nature of the properties, the choices made are likely to be in the best interests of the shareholders.

 

Disclaimer: The author holds 500 shares of SWY that he bought at $0.73/share and has only mildly freaked out about the price dropping to $0.37/share. This article is based on the personal opinions and experiences of the author. Please do your own due diligence when investing.


Diamonds Comments(0) June 4, 2008 6:42 pm

The Diamond Market

Posted by David

“The demand for diamonds is driven by two factors: greed and vanity. We do not foresee a shortage of either two in the future.” to paraphrase a former director of the Diamond Trading Company (the wing of DeBeers responsible for selling rough diamonds).

 

There has been some talk as of late of rising diamond prices. Part of this is that diamonds, like almost all commodities are priced in U.S. dollars. As the dollar goes down the price goes up. Most economists would agree that the US dollar is falling relative to the other major currencies. This situation is different from a few years ago, when South African producers were closing mines, some in part due to end of mine life, but also in part due to a strong Rand versus the U.S. dollar.

 

On the other hand, news stories such as the failed auction of a 72 c pear-cut D flawless diamond certainly grasp the attention of people following global diamond trends.

 

So in which direction is the diamond market heading? If one were to look at the stock performance of most diamond mining and exploration companies, and take that as an indicator of the diamond market, then things are definitely downhill. That poses the question of whether the very poor performance of diamond companies (see a previous article) has anything to do with loss of demand, or if it is due to more general financial pressures. Prolific analysts in the industry, such as Allan Barry Laboucan, believe that the diamond market is strong, that the above quote stays true, and current market lows are temporary.

 

I have to agree with Mr. Laboucan and his like-minded colleagues. Diamonds will continue to see strong demand. In particular the emerging upper-class of very populous countries (China and India) will continue to be a growing market for luxury goods, on that will outstrip that of the U.S. Even if only 1 % of the 2.4 billion people living China and India make it to the high disposable in income level to afford luxury goods in the next ten years, that is a new crop of 24 million consumers – a number a little short of the population of Canada.

 

With a few exceptions, e.g. Jericho (operations now suspended by Tahera), there have been no large diamond mines opened in the past 5 years since the end of the 1990’s diamond boom and the startup of Ekati (BHP Billiton) and Diavik (Rio Tinto & Harry Winston). This will disturb the supply chain for diamonds for years to come. Should current projects falter now, a shortage of diamonds in the near future is inevitable and will be accompanied by rising diamond prices. Current projects, mostly in Canada, include Snap Lake and Victor (DeBeers), Fort a la Corne (Shore Gold), and Renard (Stornoway).

 

The problem with diamonds is that they are not just any other commodity. Gemstones are valuated individually based on a number of characteristics unique to each individual stone. It can be difficult to determine if prices for diamonds are increasing due to this increased complexity. Mr. Laboucan alludes to this by mentioning the fact that companies producing larger/high quality diamonds will always see strong business as such goods are for the “ultra-rich” and immune to economic swings. The market for smaller/lower quality diamonds is more sensitive to economic pressures and is mainly a function of the level of disposable income possessed by the upper-middle class. This brings us back to the emerging middle class in the BRIC countries, the potential size of which could very well dwarf that of North America, and possibly even Europe as well. Should the economies of these countries continue to grow, scenario becomes a strong possibility. Even with signs of slowdown in China, other growing countries such as India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and Turkey will pull up the slack.

 

With these fundamentals in mind, a cautious investor should be able to pick the most promising diamond companies now, when they are cheap. Assuming due diligence has been properly performed; strong gains could be reaped in the market within a few years time.

 

Disclaimer: The author holds 500 shares of Stornoway Diamonds. This article is based on the personal opinions and experience of the author. Investors are responsible for their own due diligence.


Diamonds Comments(0) May 12, 2008 10:53 am

Churchill part 1

Posted by David

“We shall fight on the beaches…we shall never surrender.” (Sir Winston Churchill)

In regard to this speech by the famed leader and orator, the diamond exploration and mining industry will have to do plenty of fighting in terms of good results and investor relations in order to regain positive investor sentiment.

At least one small producer seems to have surrendered already in terms of Tahera Diamond Corp. (TSX-TAH), the operator of the Jericho Diamond Mine, Nunavut. Underestimations of production costs and overestimations of reserve tonnage (e.g. Muskox Kimberlite) and $ value/t led to the company filing for protection from its creditors despite hiring some big names in the diamond business (e.g. former DeBeers Canada CEO Richard G. Molyneux). Big investment backers such as Teck Cominco (TSX-TCK.B) and Tiffany’s (NYSE-TIF) did not seem to help either.

Juniors have been hit the hardest, with many having seen their share price cut by well over half since last year. Even companies with advanced projects such as Shear Minerals (TSX.V-SRM), Stornoway (TSX-SWY), and Peregrine (TSX-PGD) have been hit heavily.

In part the banking/credit crisis is in part to blame as many juniors depend on financing to get started, and the more advanced of the group depend on loans to provide capital for building their mines. The lack of available cash banks are willing to loan leaves many companies with no option but to issue more equity to finance their projects. This is very bad when their share price is already depressed due to general bearish market sentiment. This creates a vicious cycle as companies that cannot raise enough funds see their share price drop further due to perceived lack of activity by potential investors and/or further dilution.

On the production side of things, even big names such as Harry Winston Diamonds (TSX-HW) (formerly Aber Diamonds, and yes, a weak connection with Sir Churchill) have seen their share prices drop in spite of the only major concern being the rising Canadian dollar (or rather the dropping US$) as their costs are in Canadian currency and diamonds are sold in American dollars. Although even this should be offset by rising diamond prices, mainly in response to the lower US$ in addition to rising demand.

Hopefully the banks will get their acts together soon so that a major economic organ of this country: mining and exploration, can return to full function.

As for the remainder of the Winston Churchill connections, that will have to wait until next post.


Diamonds Comments(1) May 5, 2008 8:48 am