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Canada’s northern gems

December 18th, 2013

Strong results continue to show NWT and Nunavut’s diamond potential

by Greg Klein

Even Antarctica might have diamonds, according to a study published December 17 by Nature. But the remoteness, not to mention a ban on mining, rules out an economically viable deposit for the foreseeable future. Put in that perspective, the opposite end of the globe looks all the more hospitable and geologically attractive. To reinforce those impressions comes recent news from diamond companies in Canada’s north.

Results released December 16 from Kennady Diamonds’ TSXV:KDI second Northwest Territories drill campaign showed an average grade of 4.56 carats per tonne from 3,454 kilograms taken from the Kelvin kimberlite. The grade fell far below last winter, in which Kelvin showed 8.13 ct/t from 987 kilos. But the results remain “outstanding,” the company boasted, and with a winter/summer combined sample grade of 5.38 ct/t they rank “amongst the highest kimberlite sample grades ever recorded.”

Out of 11,834 diamonds above 0.1 mm, combined sieve sizes for Kelvin’s winter and summer programs found 474 commercial-size stones distributed as follows:

  • 279 from 0.85 mm to 1.18 mm, 2.84 carats
  • 126 from 1.18 mm to 1.7 mm, 3.23 carats
  • 52 from 1.7 mm to 2.36 mm, 2.74 carats
  • 10 from 2.36 mm to 3.35 mm, 2.73 carats
  • 6 from 3.35 mm to 4.75 mm, 4.55 carats
  • 1 at 4.75 mm, 2.48 carats
Strong results continue to show NWT and Nunavut’s diamond potential

Five white/colourless octahedrons from Peregrine Diamonds’
Chidliak project include a 2.42-carat stone on the right.

Recoveries show approximately one commercial-size diamond for every nine kilos of kimberlite, the company added. With 16 holes along an approximately one-kilometre strike, results suggest Kelvin “hosts commercial-size diamonds across the length and breadth of the kimberlite.”

As for Kelvin’s colour and clarity, approximately 60% of the stones are white and transparent, most with no or only minor inclusions. Another 2% are yellow and transparent, again with no or minor inclusions. Most of the rest are off-white and transparent.

New year plans for the Kennady North project include ground-penetrating radar and resistivity surveys for both the Kelvin and Faraday kimberlites beginning in February. The following month should see another 10,000 metres of delineation and exploration drilling, then a 25- to 30-tonne bulk sample from Kelvin. Looking farther ahead, a summer drill campaign would lead to a maiden resource, currently scheduled for Q3 2014.

Only 10 kilometres southwest, Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV and De Beers Canada hope the coming year will see construction on Gahcho Kué, their 49%/51% joint venture and most probably Canada’s next diamond mine—not to mention “the world’s largest and richest new diamond development project,” as the JV modestly puts it. Earlier this month the partners received a permit to begin site preparation in anticipation of a full land use permit and water licence.

Gahcho Kué’s looming presence raises the question of whether Kennady North might, should all go well, become a standalone or satellite operation. Mountain Province and its spinout Kennady share a number of team members including president/CEO Patrick Evans.

On December 17, one day after Kennady released its summer results, Peregrine Diamonds TSX:PGD offered a $3-million private placement to further its northern diamond projects. Two weeks earlier the Eric Friedland company released bulk sample results confirming the Chidliak project’s CH-6 pipe as “one of the highest-grade kimberlite pipes in the world.”

A 222.1 dry tonne bulk sample from the Baffin Island project graded 2.7 ct/t. Commercial-size stones above 0.85 mm weighed in at 600.5 carats. Forty-eight stones came in over one carat. Out of that 48, 16 were over two carats and three over three. Thirty-three percent of those 48 diamonds were white or colourless, 35% off-white, 13% yellow and 19% grey and brown. “The majority of stones show high transparency and high clarity with only minor inclusions or flaws present,” the company stated. “Most stones are whole and of good shape, with octahedra and lesser modified octahedra predominating.”

Peregrine maintains the sample grade outperforms any Canadian kimberlite pipes under development or advanced exploration, which so far rules out Kennady’s Kelvin. Indeed CH-6 “is surpassed only by the grades of five kimberlite pipes” in the NWT’s Lac de Gras district the company says, pointing to four at the Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC/Rio Tinto NYE:RIO Diavik mine and the Misery pipe at Dominion’s 80% Ekati operation.

Misery, slated for 2017 production, holds a probable reserve of three million tonnes grading 4 ct/t and an approximate value of $112 per carat, according to Dominion.

Peregrine’s new year plans include an evaluation of the Chidliak diamonds’ quality and an initial resource.

Among other diamond explorers treading Canada’s north is Olivut Resources TSXV:OLV, which holds the early-stage 52,600-hectare HOAM project in the NWT. North Arrow Minerals TSXV:NAR, which in November found success south of 60 with a Saskatchewan diamond discovery, has a number of northern projects including a 55% earn-in on Arctic Star Exploration’s TSXV:ADD 11,500-hectare Redemption project southwest of Ekati in the Lac de Gras region.

Read more about diamond mining and exploration in Canada.