- The Quiet Summer of 2011, and Honest Work
- Respectable Showing For the Diamond Sector at PDAC 2011
- PDAC 2011 – this March
- Promising Diamond Find by Metalex in Northern Ontario, Plus Grades from Chidliak and Movement at Renard
- 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
5034 AAD Aappaluttoq Aber Diamonds ABX ACS AEM Ag Agnico-Eagle Mines Agrium Alberta Alto Ventures Amarillo Amaruk AMEC Amerigo Archangel Diamond Archon Minerals Ltd. Arctic Arctic Star Diamond ARG Argentina Argyle Ashton Mining Canada Attawapiskat ATV ATW ATW Venture Corp. Au Australia AUY Avalon Rare Metals Avanti Mining Corp. Aviat AVL Baffin Island Barrick Bathurst Beluga BHP BHP Billiton Birch Mountains Bling Blue Note Mining Blue Pearl Cluster BN BRIC Buenaventura Buffalo Head Hills Bunder Burnstone Ventures Inc. BVE BVN Canada Candente Candle Lake Canterra carbonatite Caribou Castillian CCE Chariot Resources CHD Chidliak Chile Chris Jennings Chuck Fipke Churchill Churchill craton CL CLF Cliffs Co Codelco Coloured Gemstones Commerce Resources Contact Diamond Corporation copper CTM Cu Cullinan DDN DeBeers Diamond Diamondex Diamonds Diamonds North Dianor Diavik Diopside dividend DNT DO-27 DOR DSP Eastmain Resources Ekati El Teniente emerald EnCana Corp. ER EuroZinc Exotic Metals FALC FGE FGT First Nickel Inc. Fiskenaesset FNI FNV Forest Gate Fort a la Corne Foxtrot Franco-Nevada G Gahcho Gahcho Kue Gem Diamonds geologic terms glossary gold Goldcorp GPR Great Panther Resources Great Panther Silver Greenland Grib Grizzly Discoveries Inc. Gualcamayo Guanajuato Guaniamo GZD Harry Winston Hawthorne Gold Hearne HGC Hibou HUD Hudson Resources Hunter Exploration HW HWD IME In Indicator Minerals indium interview iron Jericho Jericho Diamond Mine Jigsaw K K-2 Kahuna Kennady Lake Killiq kimberlite Kinross KWG Kyle Lake Lac De Gras Las Aguilas lead Leadbetter Lesotho Letseng Li limestone lithium Lockerby LUC Lucara Lukoil LUN Lundin Mining Lynas Lynx Mapimi Marifil Mines Ltd. market hype MAT Matamec Exploration Inc. Metalex Ventures Mexico Mexivada MFM Mina El Carmen Mo molybdenum Monument Diamond Project Motapa Mothae Mountain Province Diamonds MPV MTC MTP MTX Muskox Kimberlite natural gas Nb NEM Neuqen Basin New Gold Newmont New Nadina Diamonds Ltd. NGD Ni NI 43-101 nickel niobium NMC NNA Noront NOT Notch Nunaminerals Nunavut oil Orion Otish Pascua Llama Pb PC Gold Pd PDAC Pedernal Peregrine Peregrine Diamonds Petra Diamonds PGD PGE PGM PKL placer platinum Pogo Mine potash Potash Corp. pre-feasibility PST003 Pt Punta Colorado Qavvik Qilaq QUA Quadra Mining QUC Quebec Quebect Quest Rare Metals Quest Uranium rare earth elements Rare Element Resources Raytech Metals Corp. Re REE Renard RES Restigouche rhenium Rio Colorado Rio Narcea Rio Tinto RSC RTP ruby San Antonio San Juan San Roque sapphire Saskatchewan SGF Shear Diamonds Shear Minerals Shore Gold silver SL Snap Lake Sola Resource Corp Soltoro SOQUEM Inc. SRM Star Stewart Blusson stockhouse.com Stornoway Stornoway Diamonds Strange Lake Strateco Resources SWY Ta TAH Tahera tantalum TCK.A TCK.B TCM Teck Cominco Terrane Metals Tesla TGX Thompson Creek Metals Thor Lake TIF Tiffany & Co. Topia Topia Mine Toronto Resource Investment Conference Triex True North Gems TRX Tsa Da Glisza Tuktu Tuktu-1 Tunerq tungsten Tuzo Type IIa U uranium VAA Vaaldiam Mining Inc. VALE-INCO Veladero Venezuela Victor WDO Wesdome Western Troy Capital Resources WRY WWW International Diamond Consultants Ltd. Yamana Gold Inc. YRI zinc Zn
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Posted by David
Early last month, Shore Gold (SGF) announced that a high proportion (26%) of diamonds >2.7 c retrieved from the underground bulk sample at its 100% owned Star kimberlite in Saskatchewan are type IIa. This is a category of diamond that is typical of many “large special” diamonds >10.8 carats in size.
In terms of impurities in their crystal structure, diamond can substitute nitrogen (N), boron (B), and/or hydrogen (H) for carbon. Nitrogen is the most abundant and well-studied impurity and can range from concentrations of 0 to >10,000 ppm (~1%). Diamonds with significant nitrogen (>10 ppm) are termed Type I and those without are Type II. N-bearing diamonds are further categorized into those where the substituting N is organized as single atoms (Type Ib) or as aggregates of more than one atom (Type Ia). These aggregates are classified into paired N atoms (Type IaA) or quartets (Type IaB), or a mix of both (Type IaAB).
Diamonds that are relatively free of N are Type II. Those with no N and some B are Type IIb. Type IIa diamonds are more common and have no N or B. Type Ib and IIb diamonds are relatively rare. Type Ia diamonds are the most common.
How Diamond Types Are Determined
How impurities such as nitrogen are arranged in a diamond can be determined in a non-destructive manner using Fourier-transform infra-Red (FTIR) spectroscopy. Simply, light of a lower energy than visible light (infra-red) is shone through the diamond. By measuring the exact amount of light of a given energy that comes out the other side of the diamond (i.e. how much light is absorbed), it is possible to learn things about the diamond’s molecular structure. For example, how much nitrogen is in the diamond, and if it is in atomic pairs, or quartets. Fourier-transform is a mathematical and instrumental technique applied to infrared spectrometry to speed up analyses.
Issues With The Report’s Interpretation
In their news release, SGF refers to the Letšeng-la-Terae (Letšeng) mine in Lesotho (operated by Gem Diamonds, LSE-GEMD). This mine is considered quite unique as its low grade – <0.04 c/t, but has diamonds impressive quality and size. Average diamond value for this mine is >US$2000/c. This means a revenue of ~$80/t (2008 values).
However, the report’s suggestion that Type IIa equates to higher value stones cannot be considered absolute fact. This is because the mine they are comparing their diamonds to – Letšeng, is an anomaly in terms of its diamond population. While it is possible that with further valuation of parcels for SGF pipes a higher valuation could be realized, the current one is only about 10% (~$225/c) of Letšeng’s.
The diamonds shown by SGF in the full report (see above image for an example)- while large, are typically yellow-brown and some appear to contain large inclusions (internal cracks or non-diamond minerals). The report goes on to compare Letšeng and Star diamonds in terms of size class and % Type IIa. While Letšeng does show a marked increase in % Type IIa with increasing size, Star shows only a marginal increase, if at all.
The FTIR report commissioned by SGF also makes an error when referring to the trend of increasing percentage of Type IIa diamonds with increasing carat size for Star as comparable to that of Letšeng. The trends for each pipe are in fact rather different. Letšeng shows a significant increase of the proportion of Type IIa diamonds with size, whereas Star shows only a marginal increase (see plot below).
The SGF report states that the above figure “shows explicity that the abundance of Type II diamonds increases with increasing diamond size.” This statement is misleading as it is really only true for Letšeng diamonds. The academic study on Letšeng diamonds that SGF references for this report was based on less than 500 diamond samples (large stones of value being hard to obtain even for non-destructive studies). This relatively small number means that care must be taken when applying this study on a small number of diamonds from one kimberlite to the entire potential production of another. Granted, not that many large diamonds have been made available for such studies, but such over-reaching statements should not be made.
While the results of the report are interesting, and parallels can be made with the academic paper on Letšeng, there does not appear to be much evidence at this point for increased financial prospects of the Star project in terms of diamond type. Star still has one tenth the average diamond valuation of Letšeng without having close to ten times the grade. Though this does not in any way forestall a diamond mine in Saskatchewan, far better numbers have to come out of the Fort à la Corne area kimberlites for it to approach the level of Letšeng.
Disclaimer: The author does not hold shares of any company mentioned in this article. 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 2010 www.kimreport.com
Posted by David
This year’s GeoCanada conference and related workshops saw some attention to diamonds and kimberlites. Specifically those located in the western Canadian sedimentary basin (WCSB), covering Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The two main kimberlite clusters in this region are the well-known Fort a la Corne (FalC), and the lesser known Buffalo Head Hills (BHH) occurrences. The former cluster is in Saskatchewan and has been the focus of a major JV between Shore Gold (operator) and Newmont, the background of which was discussed in previous KIM Report posts. On the technical aspect of things, Shore Gold has done a lot of work in characterizing the complex structure of their two most economic kimberlite pipes: Orion South and Star (both are ~100 Ma). These pipes are composed of multiple units each formed during a separate volcanic eruption millions of years ago on the margins of an ancient shallow inland sea that covered most of what is today called the Great Plains. There are at least five main units: Pense, Viking, Early Joli Fou, Late Joli Fou, and Cantuar (see the 3D model of the Star kimberlite below: different colours represent different petrological units). These units each erupted at a different time over many thousand of years, and differ in petrology, diamond grade and diamond size distribution. To further complicate things, these eruptions occurred over a timespan during which the inland sea was alternately expanding and contracting. The effect of these sedimentary processes (e.g. erosion, transportation, deposition) on the erupted kimberlite material led to the concentration of diamonds in some rock units and the removal of diamonds from others.
The other less-studied cluster is the ~65-85 Ma BHH in Alberta. Both barren and diamond-bearing pipes occur, also with variable geology and diamond grades as with the FalC pipes, although the extent of the complexity is unknown. The highest grade pulled from a BHH sample so far is close to 0.9 c/t (K252). Most of the pipes are a JV between Canterra Minerals Corporation (TSX.V-CTM; 28.5%, operator), Shore Gold (28.5%), and EnCana Corporation (43%). Shore Gold and Canterra each carry 50% of the operating costs. Canterra is the result of the business arrangement between Diamondex Resources Ltd. (TSX.V-DSP) and Triex Minerals Corporation (TSX.V-TKM) in 2009. Diamondex and Shore Gold bought their shares in a deal with Stornoway Diamond Corp. back in 2007. They later purchased another 12% from Burnstone Ventures Inc. (CNSX-BVE, formerly Pure Diamonds). A smaller subset of diamond-bearing pipes has been discovered by Grizzly Discoveries Inc. (TSX.V-GZD). These kimberlites: BE-02 and BE-03, are in the southeast region of the BHH cluster, previously thought to be barren. Grizzly also owns interest in a couple of much smaller diamond plays to the ENE in the Birch Mountains area of Alberta, as does Shear Minerals.
A couple of other companies have diamond interests in the WCSB: Vaaldiam Mining Inc. (TSX-VAA – Candle Lake, Saskatchewan) and Forest Gate Energy (TSX.V-FGE, formerly Forest Gate Resources – Fort a la Corne, Saskatchewan). However, activity on these properties has been fairly light (see map image of kimberlites in the WCSB below).
Both the BHH and FalC clusters were initially discovered by activities relating to energy exploration – petroleum and uranium, respectively. The BHH pipes were discovered by re-evaluating aeromagnetic survey maps that had classified the anomalies caused by the pipes to be well-heads for the oil fields that clutter the region. Some diamonds from these pipes have even been found to be coated with petroleum when recovered. The FalC cluster was found during aeromagnetic surveys. These pipes are located under 80-100 m of gravel, sand, and clay.
Though in comparison to other diamond mining regions (e.g. the Northwest Territories or the Otish Mountains in Quebec) current grade numbers are rather low, diamond valuations that do exist (only from FalC at this point) are higher than average for Canadian kimberlites. Access to infrastructure is also better, particularly when compared to Arctic kimberlites. This bolsters the revenue $/t kimberlite coming from those pipes. The main hurdle with this is the geological complexity of the FalC (and to a lesser extent BHH). Overcoming this problem has taken Shore Gold and the previous owners of the FalC pipes the better part of 20 years to overcome with exhaustive drilling and geophysics. The amount of detail given in recent reports indicates that their geology and diamond characteristics are becoming less vague, at least for the Orion South and Star bodies. Now having more information where and how rich the higher-grade zones are at Orion and Star, have allowed Shore Gold (and Newmont) to almost finalize their mine plan. Mr. George Read, Shore Gold’s senior VP exploration and development, confidently expects a full net profit after all costs and taxes of ~$25/t (CAN) ore from the project as it stands. The 50+ other kimberlite pipes remaining at FalC, along with those at BHH represent possible future resources for Shore Gold and its partners beyond the two currently gearing up for production.
On an ending note, Shore Gold reported re-valuation (April 2010) of the diamond parcels it had originally sent out and had valuated in March 2008. Price increases (in US$/c) since then are 10-20% higher for every parcel. What to keep in mind here is how the American dollar (what the revenues come in) fares against the Canadian dollar (what the costs come in). Over the past two years, the exchange rate has fluctuated from about $1 (US) buying $0.98 (CAN) to $1.30 (CAN). How much of that price increase is due to supply/demand and not currency adjustment is uncertain.
Disclaimer: The author holds shares of SWY, SRM, and FGE. Relevant comments are welcome and encouraged. Spam comments will be not posted and deleted. This article is based on the opinions and experience of the author. Please conduct due diligence when investing. ©KIM Report 2010 www.kimreport.com
Posted by David
The recent plea from the Dubai sovereign wealth fund, Dubai World, for a moratorium on payments to their $59 billion (USD) debt underscores that there are still plenty of skeletons in the closet to be found as the world economy races and stalls back to recovery. Sometimes this engine even goes backwards for a bit in the face of surprising news such as this.
Is this revelation really so surprising? Perhaps in the particular details and that it involves a supposedly wealthy country backed by decades of high oil production revenues. Or at least it was before it invested a good bit of that money to finance the hyper-development of a previously sleepy Arabian emirate. However, it is not surprising that large negative developments continue to come to light as the financial systems recover and consolidate. It took many years of unchecked greed and financial short-sightedness to create the crisis (crises?) that started in 2007. It is only logical that it will be a few years until we are free of this baggage.
What does this mean for commodities? The “good times” are gone and many investors/developers now have to deal with an annoying factor known as “reality” when they are interpreting the market, supply/demand trends, and so forth.
This whole topic is too big for one article and it would be redundant, not to mention exhausting, to focus on an all-encompassing review of things as they stand and look to do so in the future. Following the news of Dubai World’s troubles made me think of all the discretionary luxury goods (haute couture, man-made islands shaped-like things, and particularly jewellery) that are disproportionately consumed by such a rather small population, and how that allegory can be expanded to the world at large.
Are those we previously thought to be ultra-rich truly immune to economic fluctuations? It really is a relative matter, but it appears that the 2007-2009 meltdown(s) has (have) even touched those we thought to be dependable for the consumption of commodities of limited practicality. Diamonds (and other gems) are perhaps the best example of such an item. They can be synthesized easily now for aesthetic and industrial purposes, leaving natural diamonds of no particular commercial use aside from vanity and symbolism.
However, it is the rarity, history, and symbolism/mystique surrounding natural diamonds that makes them so sought after, even in troubled economic times such as now.
This recent reprieve in the markets over the past six months has been accompanied by bursts of positive news releases from a previously lacklustre Canadian diamond exploration sector. This recovery was second to only that seen by rare earth metals in the past few months.
Peregrine First Out of the Gate
The major catalyst for this renewed interest in diamond properties in 2009 was the Chidliak discovery on Baffin Island. Although the most recent news from Peregrine (and JV partner BHP Billiton) was less than stellar compared to previous developments, the Chidliak-Qilaq project is the first diamondiferous kimberlite discovery in Canada in years to hold significant economic potential. PGD stock has relaxed from its surprising highs in September-October stable levels at well over $1. The nature of the Chidliak find was covered in an earlier article back in March. What is interesting in recent months is the lag time for the market to acknowledge this find: about six months since its first real publicity at a sparsely attended PDAC session on diamond exploration.
Shore Pushes Onwards
Two other major players in the Canadian diamond junior sector have seen stock jumps more closely tied to news releases. Shore Gold released its most recent NI 43-101 complaint report concerning the Orion South kimberlite body in the Fort a la Corne (FalC) JV project with Newmont in Saskatchewan (not to be confused with the adjacent Star property wholly owned by SGF). This technical report and resource estimate is lengthy at 108 pages, as it should be considering the complex geology found in the FalC pipe compared to some other Canadian kimberlites (e.g. Snap Lake, Lynx). The bulk of the geological characteristics of the FalC kimberlites were covered in an earlier KIM Report article. The main issues indicated with that article over a year ago was for SGF to up their average diamond valuations due to grades well below 1 ct/t (100 cpht), and to give a reasonable estimate of the total mining cost per ton. The proximity of local communities and their infrastructure (power, roads, etc.) will bring costs down well below those of Arctic projects. But by how much? P&E Mining Consultants do a very thorough job of considering all technical aspects of the most promising body of the 70+ in the FalC project.
SGF and NEM commissioned WWW International Diamond Consultants Ltd. to evaluate the diamonds recovered from underground and LDDH samples. 2320.2 c was priced at $199495 (US), or $86/c (using the March 11 2008 pricing). The most promising units of the Orion South kimberlite: EJF and P-2 had price ranges of $100-166/c and $91-123/c, respectively. Diamonds from other lithologies of Orion South have lower valuations. P&E optimistically use the high end values for their modelling of the resource. This is significantly lower than the $225/c valuation at Star, located 2.5 km to the SE. Grades range from 0.128-0.147c/t depending on the case used. Tonnage (minimum case) is 76.8 Mt indicated and 86.3 Mt inferred.
The mining plan for Orion South suggests an open pit. Slope of the pit wall would be 30º for the ore/waste rock and 18º for the overburden due to its unconsolidated nature.
Mining costs are hard to put together from just reading the report. It assumes that the exchange rate will be US$0.85/CAD$. Stripping costs for the overburden (glacial till) will be $1/t overburden, with mining, processing, and general/administrative costs pegged at $6.54/t kimberlite. Thus using the absolute minimum values SGF and NEM look to clear about $4/t (rough estimate for overburden clearance) from Orion. Though should aspects such as US-CAD exchange rates, rough diamond prices, and/or fuel prices strongly fluctuate, this number could go much higher or lower. The key assumption being made here -as with all deposits, is that the modelled resource accurately reflects the real resource in the ground closely enough that it remains economic. The major difficulty with the FalC kimberlites is that their petrological/lithological heterogeneity (i.e. changes in diamond grade throughout zones in the kimberlite body) is difficult to pin down. The overall low grade of the pipe and mediocre diamond valuation (compared to other pipes with grades <0.5c/t) leaves little room for mistakes, mistakes that SGF and NEM have spent years and millions of dollars to avoid.
At its conclusion the Orion South/Star project requires a further $4.5 million to bring things to the feasibility stage, not all that much compared to the aggregate amount spent on developing the FalC kimberlites since their discovery in the late 1980s.
Last, But Not Least
The second major junior in the Canadian sector is Stornoway. This has followed the trend set by Peregrine and then Shore Gold in a resurgent Canadian diamond exploration sector. First reporting 4x the original tonnage for the Renard-2 kimberlite property in early October and then expanding on that find this month by reporting revised numbers for entire Foxtrot (Renard, Lynx, and Hibou bodies) property (aka the Renard Diamond Project) that effectively triple the contained carats compared to estimates published last year. 23.0 Mc are indicated and 13.3 Mc are inferred with further upside as some bodies remain not fully studied. Grades at Renard-2 for indicated (1.03 c/t) and inferred (1.2 c/t) resources are up 27% and 39% respectively.
There is a bit of cloud to this silver lining though in that diamond valuations from Renard-2 and -3 are down 3% to US$117/c and for Lynx down 14% to $57/c (“Base Case” estimates). The NI 43-101 compliant technical report covering this release will be out in less than 45 days.
Considering these developments it is curious if any other diamond juniors will be lucky enough to come across some positive news in order to be next in line to capitalize on this new, but fragile, enthusiasm. With the tax-loss selling season approaching, that enthusiasm is fragile indeed.
Disclaimer: The author owns 4000 shares of SWY. 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
Posted by David
The one diamond discovery that commanded the most attention at this year’s PDAC convention was Peregrine Diamonds‘ kimberlite (and subsequent diamond) discovery on its Chidliak property in south Baffin Island, Nunavut. Chidliak is 9800 km2, and since the discovery of diamonds on the property, Peregrine has added a buffer claim around the property of ~3200 km2 in area called Qilaq this February. BHP-Billiton has earn-in rights of up to 51% in Chidliak if they spend $22.3 million on the property over the next five years. Although BHP is spending five times what Peregrine is, Peregrine remains the operator for 2009′s program.
Chidliak was the focus of two talks in two separate diamond sessions at this year’s PDAC. What is so interesting about Chidliak is the sequence of events that led to the discovery of three kimberlite bodies: CH-1, -2, and -3, on the property.
Till sampling of kimberlite indicator minerals from 2005 to 2007 confirmed that kimberlite was present in the area. These samples indicated that 10% of the garnets found were G10. Last year, an aeromagnetic survey that covered less than 15% of the property resulted in a number of magnetic anomalies. These are commonly associated with kimberlite, but not always. Field geologists sent out to investigate the three most promising anomalies encountered kimberlite rock at the surface. Approximately 1100 kg mini-bulk surface samples from the CH-1 and CH-2 kimberlites gave back 2.17 c/t and 0.9 c/t, respectively. This includes a 2.01 c gem-quality colourless resorbed octahedron from the CH-1 sample.
These are in no way statistical samples of the diamond potential of the kimberlites, but they are superb returns from a grassroots exploration program that has yet to put a drill hole into the ground. Considering these encouraging results, there is significant upside to this project. Over 170 magnetic anomalies remain from the aeromagnetic survey for investigation and the bulk of the claim remains yet to be surveyed. Consider that the size of the Chidliak and Qilaq claims are much larger than the Ekati (BHP-Billiton) or Diavik (Rio Tinto and Harry Winston) mine camps in the Northwest Territories.
Another long-term benefit for the project is its proximity to infrastructure. That is of course a relative term when in the arctic. The property is less than 100 km from the territorial capital of Iqaluit and even closer to the coast, unlike the land-locked and isolated Lac de Gras mines that are ~400 km from Yellowknife by ice road.
Considering that current mines in the pipeline are either modest in comparison to Ekati and Diavik: e.g. Snap Lake (De Beers), Renard (Stornoway and SOQUEM), DO-27 (Peregrine), or have slowed in their development: e.g. Fort a la Corne (Shore Gold and Newmont), Gahcho Kue (Mountain Province and DeBeers); Chidliak hopefully represents a large part of a new period of Canadian diamond exploration.
Disclaimer: The author holds 4000 shares of SWY and 20 of HW. 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
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.
Posted by David
Earlier this month, Mountain Province Diamonds (TSX-MPV, AMEX-MDM) dropped a big rock in the otherwise stagnant waters of diamond exploration and investment. The company announced that they had recovered a 25.13 c colourless octahedral diamond of exceptional clarity from the Tuzo kimberlite in the Gahcho Kue cluster, Northwest Territories. This diamond was valued at approximately (USD) $17,500/c, or $439,775 total. This is the largest diamond recovered in Canada during an exploration project.
MPV discovered the Gahcho Kue cluster, which lies in the AK property in the Kennady Lake region. It owns 49% of the project, with De Beers Canada as the operator and majority stake holder. The geologic environment of the project is in the southeast Slave craton. The cluster was discovered in 1997 and DeBeers Canada (then Monopros) was quickly brought in as a JV partner where is could earn up to 51% of the project by shouldering a large portion of the costs. DeBeers has since exercised this option. Four main kimberlite bodies comprise the cluster (see map): Tuzo, 5034, Hearne, and Tesla. Tesla is not currently considered to be a resource as its small surface area, 0.4 hectares, is less than one third that of the next largest body: Tuzo at 1.4 hectares.
The geology of the three currently economic pipes is varied. 5034 is an irregular body of hypabyssal kimberlite, Hearne is a mix of hypabyssal and diatreme facies kimberlite, and Tuzo is believed to be the deeper part of a diatreme with no root zone found as of yet. These bodies together create a large reserve of ore that has been thoroughly drilled and modeled over the past decade. In a general way the geology could be seen as an intermediate between the Churchill (Stornoway Diamonds & Shear Minerals) and Snap Lake (De Beers Canada) projects that are entirely hypabyssal kimberlite and the Fort a la Corne (Shore Gold & Newmont) project where all of the kimberlite found is pyroclastic or resedimented pyroclastic.
The diamond was recovered from LDDH sampling in March of this year. After the sampling was completed the kimberlite was made into a concentrate at De Beers’ Grand Prairie, Alberta facility and then shipped to the GEMDL laboratory in South Africa (also run by De Beers) to recover the remaining diamonds. When this in completed, the diamonds will be sent to the DTC facility in London, U.K., for cleaning and valuation.
Of the three main kimberlites, Tuzo is the least developed in terms of sampling. The recent bulk sample was in part an effort to rectify this. 5034 has 8.7 Mt of indicated ore at 1.6 c/t and 4.9 Mt of inferred ore at 1.7 c/t. Hearne has 5.7 Mt of indicated ore at 1.7 c/t and 1.5 Mt of inferred ore at 1.53 c/t. Tuzo, meanwhile only has 10.6 Mt of inferred ore at 1.15 c/t. MPV and De Beers are trying to remove the uncertainty with this body. For comparative purposes Diavik a few hundred km to the north has about 29.8 Mt of reserves in total at 3.2 c/t (measured+indicated), or 95.36 Mc. Thus far, Gahcho Kue has about 46 Mc (indicated+inferred). Keep in mind that the Diavik mine has unusually high grade. MPV estimates a mine life of about 24 years.
In terms of diamond valuation, an independent 2006 report by WWW International Diamond Consultants Ltd. gave (in USD) $101/c for 5034, $54/c for Hearne, and $43/c for Tuzo. The average for all three pipes was $75/c and it was noted that proper cleaning (usually in a hot acid bath) would raise the value of many of the diamonds by up to 10%.
It has been over ten years since the discovery at Gahcho Kue. Mining is expected to begin in full by 2012, giving about a fourteen year lag between discovery and mine. Diavik took only ten years in total to begin full capacity mining and Ekati took even less. Following statements for interviews with MPV management, it would seem that they would prefer a faster to-mine plan, but De Beers has preferred a more methodical approach. In light of what happened at Jericho with Tahera, perhaps this might be a more prudent option. Though perhaps De Beers has been focusing the bulk of its attention on their 100% owned Snap Lake and Victor projects in the Northwest Territories and Ontario, respectively.
Regardless of the slow timetable set for developing the project, the discovery of this diamond, along with other ones >5 c found in the past few years, has established the potential for large, high quality stones. As diamond price goes up exponentially with carat size, the profit margins for the future mine are looking larger. Now that above average grades, decent diamond values, and large, high quality, high value diamonds have been established at Gahcho Kue the main hurdle is to finance the project to completion as it will be about four years until commercial production. MPV needs about $370 million to fund its 49% share. The current market cap of the company is $280 million. The company has about $1.5 million net in cash and medium-term deposits, and has invested about $65 million in the project overall. While the sale of the diamond announced last week should pay for a few drill holes, in order to keep the full 49% share of the project MPV will undoubtedly require financing. This strategy may run into some resistance as diamonds are not a hot item in the current market and lenders in general are skittish after their collective failure to recognize the risks of sub prime mortgages and ABCP. Also, the fate of the aforementioned last diamond mine to open in the Arctic may be scaring way any potential suitors. Raising more capital by dilution is only a partial solution at this moment considering the vast funds involved. Although the company is not poorly positioned to issuing private placements effectively as its stock price has not suffered anywhere near to the degree that many of its peers have (mainly $4 to $5 over the past year). Another option is to default on their share of the costs and let De Beers’ deep pockets take care of things in return for letting their share slide to 40%. A third option that is being signaled by a strategic review of the company as alluded to in a National Post article last week is that the company may be putting itself up for sale.
Regardless of what option the company pursues, the nature of the deposit is likely to reap large rewards for shareholders when interest in the diamond market returns. What remains to be seen is that whether MPV chooses the option that gives the best gain to the shareholders.
Disclaimer: The author holds no shares of MPV. This article is based on the author’s personal research and experience. Please perform your own due diligence when investing.
Posted by David
The strategy of Marifil Mines Ltd. (TSX.V-MFM) seems similar to that of Franco-Nevada (TSX-FNV): Prospect out a property with good potential, get in a larger joint venture partner to shoulder the development costs, and then collect royalties after production commences. MFM is focused solely in Argentina, where is has a variety of resources
In various Argentine provinces MFM is prospecting for Au, Ag, In (indium), Pb, Zn, Mo, Cu, cement-grade limestone, Ni, Co, PGM, U, and oil/natural gas. Activities are in 18 properties across 7 provinces. This company is no one-trick pony.
Having thrown off the Peronist junta in 1983 in place of a democratic system and surviving the economic crises of the 1990s, Argentina has been stable politically and economically since 2002. Although Argentina is on good relations with other South American nations, it does not seem to have caught the socialist nationalization trend of so many of its neighbours, such as Venezuela, Ecuador, or Bolivia, that has put a halt to mineral exploration in those countries.
The current share price is hovering around $0.40, but it had a recent pop to $0.89 a couple of months back due to results from one of its PGM projects that is a JV with Castillian Resources (TSX.V-CT). The project centers on the historic Las Aguilas Mine and neighbouring areas that the layered ultramafic complex extends to. Values of 0.61 g/t to 2.10 g/t Pt+Pd were found over significant widths (7 to 14.68 m) and zones up to 5.66 g/t Pt were found in smaller zones (~1 m). In terms of base metals, grab samples on the property have returned values of up to 6.71% Cu, 2.21% Ni, and 0.21% Co. Following the company strategy, CT is earning an interest in the Las Aguilas Ni-Cu-PGM project from MFM.
Aside from PGM, the In deposits are of particular interest as the metal is used in LCD screens. Old-fashioned CRT monitors and TVs are longer being produced and the increase in LCD screen production has resulted in a rise in In prices (see image below).
Current In prices average between $800/kg and $900/kg. The demand caused by the LCD market for In is supplemented by other uses in the chemical and electronics industries. In commonly occurs in sphalerite ((Zn,Fe)S) by replacing iron or zinc. In grades of up to 0.5 kg/t over 4.5 m have been found in core from the San Roque property (epithermal Au-Ag-Zn-Pb-In breccia vein deposit).
MFM has another JV with ATW Venture Corp. (TSX.V-ATW) on the Amarillo epithermal Au-Ag and Cu-Au porphyry deposit. Although sampling has recently started on this project, early grab samples have returned values of up to 2251 g/t Au (65.28 oz/t) from a 10 cm wide vein. This property is located in the same gold belt as Barrick’s (TSX-ABX) Veladero and Pascua Llama deposits. The geology is also similar to that of the Newmont-Buenaventura (NYSE-BVN) Yanacocha Mine in Peru. ATW can earn up to 70% interest in the property over 5 years in return for investing resources in the project. What is interesting about this deposit is that in addition to the potential for high grade Au and Ag, there is also the potential for high tonnage as well as most porphyry-type deposits are quite large in volume, being the left-over hydrothermal systems associated with volcanism at convergent oceanic-continental boundaries.
MFM has two non-metal projects: Mina El Carmen (oil/gas) and Punta Colorado (limestone). Although these commodities are not their specialty, the intent of the company as expressed to me by a company representative at last March’s PDAC is to sell them or enter into a JV in order to begin production and use the proceeds to fund their core metals exploration. Due to the nature of the deposit, MFM management believes that it will be much easier to exploit (particularly the limestone) or sell off one or both of these assets than any of the metal properties. They also believe that in the long run, many of the metal assets will prove to be more lucrative than the non-metal ones.
MFM certainly has a diverse set of properties with much potential. Their main challenge right now is to better define the deposits that have returned such promising values: Amarillo, Las Aguilas, and San Roque. To do so, this means coming up with enough cash for the drills. This may be difficult as MFM (using 2007 annual financials) has only about $1,000,000 (CAD) in cash and equivalents in the bank, and about $380,000 in debt. Their burn rate for 2007 was about $500,000, so they should probably be good until the end of the year, even if they ramp up spending on drilling a little. Using their FNV-inspired plan they should be able to mitigate these costs as JV partners take on a higher share as operators.
It seems that with their sound corporate strategy, diverse holdings, and liquid properties, MFM is poised to continue returning strong results from Argentina in spite of economic pressures on juniour explorers.
Disclaimer: The Author holds 1000 shares of Marifil Mines. This article is intended for entertainment purposes only and is based on the author’s personal opinion and experience. Investors are responsible for their own due diligence when investing.
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.