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Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

August 28th, 2015

by Greg Klein | August 28, 2015

It all started when a vacationer spotted a nice-looking rock lying in the dirt. That turned out to be a truly exceptional diamond that’s to be transformed by a Saskatchewan master cutter in a four-day public event. Next month Mike Botha, a renowned craftsman based in Prince Albert, travels to Little Rock to apply his skills to the Esperanza, an 8.52-carat gem found last June by Bobbie Oskarson in Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park. After setting up a mini-factory at Stanley Jewelers Gemologist he’ll offer the public “a unique opportunity to watch a master craftsman’s precision as he cuts and shapes the rough stone to bring out its inherent beauty, value and luminosity,” according to the retail store.

Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

Mike Botha
(Photo: Embee Diamonds)

Speaking to, Botha extolled the qualities of Oskarson’s chance find. “The stone is absolutely colourless,” he enthuses. Quite unusually, an analysis found zero parts per billion nitrogen. “So we have reason to believe this is one of the most colourless diamonds you could ever find. And the clarity is phenomenal. There are absolutely no inclusions [impurities] from what we could see.” Further analysis found no stress zones, “which is also a good indicator of it being absolutely inclusion-free. It’s a pretty pure stone.”

His craft calls for “planning, planning, planning,” he explains. “It’s like doing wood, but measure 10 times, cut once. It’s very painstaking.

“We did 3D solid modelling of the rough crystal and out of that we chose a design called the triolette that would maximize the visual appeal as well as maximize the material. It’s like an elongated teardrop but it has angles instead of being a smooth curve, unlike the briolette. But the angles are very obtuse and there’s a mixture of emerald and trapezoid configurations in the diamond.”

Could there be any risk? “Through stupidity, yes,” Botha responds. But with no apparent stress zones, “we have reason to believe it’s a very healthy diamond so we do not foresee problems with the stone breaking spontaneously.”

Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

The Esperanza
(Photo: ©AGS Laboratories, Peter Yantzer)

The result will inevitably weigh less than the original. But he anticipates finishing up with the “magic five” carats, considered an optimal size for jewelry.

The gem then goes to a lab for final grading before being mounted in a custom-designed pendant. It’s expected to go on sale this autumn.

Oskarson sold Esperanza to a consortium in which she retains an interest, Botha says. “We believe there’s a lot of blue sky in the project.” He’s not at liberty to discuss his own remuneration, however.

As for having an audience throughout four days of painstaking work, “it doesn’t bother me, as long as I don’t have to do the talking. We’ll have some spokespeople to do that.”

Botha began his career in South Africa and briefly worked in Russia before coming to Canada in 1997. His first contract here had him cutting some exceptionally large stones, “a 314-carat and a couple of 100-carat diamonds” from Brazil. The Northwest Territories, the world’s third-largest rough diamond producer by value, recruited him to write a curriculum and provide training, as well as do consulting work for the government.

Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

Bobbie Oskarson
(Photo: Arkansas State Parks)

There had been some diamond cutting in Yellowknife “but I don’t know what the status on that is,” he says. Although the territory tried to encourage home-grown professionals, “it’s not cost-effective,” Botha maintains. “Just to run an operation in the Arctic is senseless. Everything’s so expensive. You cannot compete with countries like India and China in that respect.”

Canada currently has “one outfit in Vancouver, one in Montreal, more than one in Toronto. But these are not large facilities. The largest at the moment is HRA in Sudbury.” His family business, Embee Diamonds, describes itself as a “world-class diamond cutting and polishing atelier” located in Prince Albert. “The reason we’re surviving is most of our business is with United States jewellers, so we don’t go through a middleman. It’s direct to the retailer.”

As for diamonds mined in this country, almost all go to Antwerp. “The Diamond High Council in Belgium did a phenomenal job to recruit all the mining companies to put up distribution and sorting facilities in Belgium.” From there, “probably 90% of Canadian stones go to India for cutting and polishing.”

World diamond capital forges closer ties with Canada

May 8th, 2015

by Greg Klein | May 8, 2015

Last week’s visit by representatives of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre bodes well for an even closer relationship with the world’s third-largest rough producer by value, the organization announced May 8. Among the mission’s other findings were “strong indications” that Stornoway Diamond TSX:SWY “is considering to commercialize its entire production” from the Renard mine, expected to begin production in H2 2017, through the Belgian city. Renard’s projected output of 1.6 million carats a year worth $304 million could mean a 64% increase in Canadian rough on the Antwerp market, the world’s most important diamond trade hub.

De Beers channels its Canadian-extracted gems through the vertically integrated company’s operations in Gaborone, Botswana.

While Canada is already one of the largest diamond mining countries in the world, trailing only Botswana and Russia, the country still has tremendous untapped potential.—Antwerp World Diamond Centre

“Throughout our conversations with the Canadians it was very striking all of them praised Antwerp as a reliable and highly transparent trade partner,” said Antwerp province governor Cathy Berx, following meetings in Montreal, Toronto and Yellowknife. “We clearly share the same values, such as transparency, the importance of correct controls and corporate social responsibility. These shared values can only further strengthen our good relationships.”

Between 2012 and 2014 Canadian production jumped from 1.5 million carats to 3.6 million carats, with their value climbing from $2.5 billion to $3.8 billion, the AWDC stated. “While Canada is already one of the largest diamond mining countries in the world, trailing only Botswana and Russia, the country still has tremendous untapped potential.”

With diamond production concentrated in the Northwest Territories’ Lac de Gras region, Canada’s largest operation is Dominion Diamond’s (TSX:DDC) majority-held Ekati mine followed by Rio Tinto NYE:RIO/Dominion’s Diavik and De Beers’ Snap Lake. Gacho Kué, a De Beers/Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV joint venture considered to be the world’s largest diamond development project, has production scheduled for H2 2016. De Beers also operates the Victor mine in northern Ontario. Renard will be Quebec’s first diamond mine.

Of global rough diamond supply, 84% currently passes through Antwerp, as does 50% of all polished diamonds, according to the AWDC.

Read about diamond supply and demand.

Read about diamond mining in Canada.

Blood diamonds prominent as multi-billion-dollar Swiss Leaks scandal hits HSBC

February 9th, 2015

by Greg Klein | February 9, 2015

HSBC’s secret Swiss bank accounts facilitated billions of dollars in money laundering, tax evasion, fraud, arms trafficking and possibly terrorism, a team of investigative journalists reported February 8. Almost 2,000 of the account-holders are associated with the diamond industry.

The probe began in 2008 when a former HSBC employee handed files over to French tax authorities. After Le Monde got ahold of the info the paper turned to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which assembled a team of over 140 reporters from 45 countries to “sift through the data from all angles.” Excerpts from their Swiss Leaks report were released February 8 and 9.

Their revelations have rich and famous—from celebrity athletes to politicians, and from rock stars to royalty—running for their spin doctors. Diamonds were central to several enormous crimes.

Diamonds have a long history of being linked to conflict and violence. The ease with which diamonds can be converted into tools of war, when not sourced responsibly, is astonishing.—Michael Gibb
of Global Witness

The report noted that the HSBC files “document huge sums of money controlled by dealers in diamonds who are known to have operated in war zones and sold gemstones to finance insurgencies that caused untold deaths.”

A co-founder of the Kimberley Process, Ian Smillie, told the ICIJ that “diamonds are a great way to launder money, to hide money, to evade taxes and all the rest.” Referring to wars financed by conflict diamonds, he added, “Half a million died in the Angolan civil war. Tens of thousands died in Sierra Leone, Congo and elsewhere. It was a huge humanitarian crisis that destabilized huge regions.”

One HSBC client, Emmanuel Shallop, got a six-year prison sentence and lost $59 million in diamonds and real estate to Belgian authorities in 2010 after being convicted of crimes related to blood diamonds from Sierra Leone.

“Diamonds have a long history of being linked to conflict and violence,” the report quoted Michael Gibb of the human rights group Global Witness. “The ease with which diamonds can be converted into tools of war, when not sourced responsibly, is astonishing.”

HSBC replied that it has “taken significant steps over the past several years to implement reforms and exit clients who did not meet strict new HSBC standards.” Its Swiss unit has shed about 70% of account-holders, the bank added.

Read more about the ICIJ Swiss Leaks report here and here.

UN fails to staunch flow of blood diamonds, gold from Central African Republic

November 5th, 2014

by Greg Klein | November 5, 2014

Even after the Kimberley Process banned diamond imports from the Central African Republic last year, the country exported an estimated 140,000 carats worth $24 million, according to a November 5 Reuters story. As violence escalates again, a UN panel wants mining sites monitored by troops and drones.

Following an outbreak of sectarian fighting in late 2012, Muslim Seleka rebels established regional strongholds. Between December 2013 and last August, about 3,000 people were killed amid reports of looting, kidnapping and rape. Mining licences and commodity taxes help fund the carnage, the UN found.

About 8,000 peacekeepers out of a 12,000-strong commitment are currently deployed in the CAR, Reuters added.

Diamonds are a rebel’s best friend in CAR, as armed groups smuggle blood diamonds and trade them for arms.—Sasha Lezhnev,
senior policy analyst
with the Enough Project

In August at least 25 illegal miners died after an open pit collapsed at or near AXMIN Inc’s (TSXV:AXM) Passendro gold project in the south-central CAR. It was the second such accident in the area since June 2013, when at least 37 people died. AXMIN had already suspended its exploration and pre-development work at the location, declaring a force majeure in December 2012.

“The victims of the deadly collapse were artisanal miners, who use their hands and cheap tools to dig minerals out of the earth in illicit operations that help finance the violent conflicts in the war-ravaged country,” the Globe and Mail reported.

French uranium giant AREVA pulled out of the CAR in 2012, where its 90%-held Bakouma project began test mining in 2010 and was scheduled for full production in 2014 to 2015.

A May report from the Enough Project blamed illicit diamonds, oil and ivory for funding weapons, fuel and poaching equipment.

“Diamonds are a rebel’s best friend in CAR, as armed groups smuggle blood diamonds and trade them for arms,” said Sasha Lezhnev, the project’s senior policy analyst.

CAR diamonds “are sold to traders in the Darfur region of Sudan, as well as Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the report stated. “The traders circumvent the international Kimberley Process certification scheme and [the diamonds] are likely sold on the world market in the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”

Dominion increases its Ekati stake, Canada to more than double diamond production

October 15th, 2014

by Greg Klein | October 15, 2014

The world’s third-largest diamond producer by value just got bigger and a world-renown diamond explorer just got richer. Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC announced October 15 it had completed its acquisition of Chuck Fipke’s remaining interest in Ekati, the mine he discovered. In July Dominion stated Fipke’s entire stake would fetch US$67 million. But with co-discoverer Stewart Blusson and Archon Minerals TSXV:ACS exercising their right to pick up a proportionate share, Dominion now pays Fipke a total of $55.4 million.

Dominion increases its Ekati stake, Canada to more than double diamond production

After sorting and pricing its rough diamonds, Dominion
sells them in Antwerp, Belgium and Mumbai, India.

In return the company increases its previous 80% interest in Ekati’s Core zone, which includes the mine and other permitted kimberlite pipes, to 88.889%. Dominion also gets an additional 6.53% of the Buffer zone, which hosts pipes with development and exploration potential, for a total of 65.3%. Blusson now holds the remainder of Core, while Archon holds the rest of Buffer.

Fipke got $27.55 million from Dominion on closing, with the rest to come through instalments. The company may issue him shares to cover one or more instalments.

Dominion also holds a 40% interest in the nearby Diavik mine, which is operated by 60% owner Rio Tinto NYE:RIO.

For production by value, Dominion is the world’s third-largest company and Canada the third-largest country. Even if De Beers’ Victor mine in Ontario were excluded, the three mines of the Northwest Territories’ Lac de Gras region would retain the global third-place standing.

One day before Dominion’s announcement, diamond authority Paul Zimnisky stated Canada’s production would more than double within four years. While this country currently extracts about 14.2% of the planet’s supply by value, two new mines “are estimated to boost Canada’s global market share to 25.2% in value and 15.1% in volume by 2018,” he wrote. That would “give Canada the highest compound annual growth rate of production (20.2% in value and 17.4% in volume) among the world’s eight largest diamond-producing nations over the next four years.”

Only three large-scale mines are projected to open outside Canada during that period, Zimnisky added. None of them are expected to match production from either of the upcoming Canadian mines, De Beers’/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPV) Gahcho Kué in Lac de Gras and Stornoway Diamond’s (TSX:SWY) Renard project in Quebec. Meanwhile “some of the largest mines in the world are reaching exhaustion,” Zimnisky pointed out.

Apart from the new mines, Canadian diamond exploration has seen considerable new activity, especially in Lac de Gras.

Read more about Dominion Diamond.

Read more about Canadian diamond exploration.

Dominion Diamond updates Ekati, forecasts production and prices

July 21st, 2014

by Greg Klein | July 21, 2014

Dominion Diamond updates Ekati, forecasts production and prices

With interests in two mines in the NWT’s Lac de Gras region,
Dominion is the world’s third-largest diamond miner by value.


An updated plan for Ekati forecasts Canada’s original diamond mine producing over 20 million carats between 2015 and 2020. Released by Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC on July 21, the report precedes an updated reserve estimate expected later this year for the Lac de Gras-region mine in the Northwest Territories.

The plan breaks down output for four deposits in Ekati’s Core zone, totalling 19.18 million carats from fiscal 2015 to 2020. Processing from the mined-out Fox deposit would end in 2016, the same year mining would begin in the Misery and Pigeon deposits. Misery would produce 12.28 million carats of the cumulative total by 2020.

An additional 850,000 carats between fiscal 2017 and 2019 would come from the Lynx deposit on Ekati’s Buffer zone.

Dominion also released an initial resource for two Misery satellites, both in the inferred category. Misery South showed:

  • 900,000 tonnes averaging 1 carat per tonne for 900,000 carats

The Misery Southwest extension showed:

  • 3 million tonnes averaging 1.3 ct/t for 5 million carats

Plant improvements have achieved a 15% increase in recovery, Dominion added. The company also outlined plans to extract diamonds from coarse ore rejects that began piling up when Ekati opened in 1998. The mine’s total reserves and resources fall short of the plant’s annual capacity of 4.35 million tonnes.

Rough diamond prices forecast by the company rated most Ekati deposits well above world averages. Different sources vary on the global average, citing figures ranging from about $100 to $130 per carat, the latter provided by Paul Zimnisky in March. But, based on Q1 sales, Dominion’s forecasted rough diamond averages came to $395 for Koala, $440 for Koala North, $315 for Fox, $200 for Pigeon, $235 for Lynx, $105 for Misery Main, $90 for Misery South and SW, $65 to $120 for coarse ore rejects and $70 to $100 for small diamonds now recovered through plant improvements.

By value, the company is the world’s third-largest rough diamond producer.

Dominion currently holds 80% of Ekati’s Core zone and 58.8% of Buffer. But earlier this month the company announced its intention to buy out Ekati co-discoverer Chuck Fipke, whose company holds 10% each of Core and Buffer. Fipke’s teammate in the discovery, Stewart Blusson, retains 10% of Core, while Archon Minerals TSXV:ACS has 31.2% of Buffer.

As well, Dominion holds a 40% interest in the Diavik mine, also in the Lac de Gras region, while a Rio Tinto NYE:RIO subsidiary holds the rest. Dominion sorts its share of diamonds from both mines in Yellowknife, Toronto and Mumbai, India. The rough diamonds then go to market through Dominion’s Belgian and Indian subsidiaries.


Read more about diamond mining and exploration in Canada:

  • A bourse marks its course: The Diamond Bourse of Canada wants to encourage secondary industry while enhancing our global stature

Disclaimer: Prima Diamond Corp is a client of OnPage Media Corp, the publisher of The principals of OnPage Media may hold shares in Prima Diamond.

A bourse marks its course

July 5th, 2014

The Diamond Bourse of Canada wants to encourage secondary industry while enhancing our global stature

by Greg Klein

Canada produces about 15% of the world’s diamond supply, ranks third globally for production by value and enjoys a reputation for high-quality stones that are mined ethically. But talk to David Gavin, president of the Diamond Bourse of Canada, and you get the impression this country’s industry has yet to achieve its rightful stature internationally—or domestically, for that matter. He hopes the association will help change that.

An exchange that brings together buyers and sellers, the bourse has 74 members, mostly diamond wholesalers but also representatives of Canada’s “very small” manufacturing sector, which cuts and polishes rough diamonds for jewelry.

With 90% of Canadian-mined diamonds being sent overseas for that purpose, the bourse “unfortunately” has a membership largely restricted to handling diamonds cut and polished abroad. Gavin wants Canada to develop a stronger secondary industry.

The Diamond Bourse of Canada wants to encourage secondary industry while enhancing our global stature

“I’m trying to open up channels of communication” with two of the diamond miners currently operating in Canada, Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC and De Beers, Gavin says. “But the problem is they already have these mature channels of distribution. They have a lot more buyers than merchandise. But markets change over time. South Africa was once the powerhouse in terms of diamond business. They have a very small manufacturing community left.”

Botswana, on the other hand, “really forced De Beers’ hand and made them move from London to Botswana. That created more of a secondary industry which we’d love to see in Canada.”

Although Anglo American owns an 85% stake in De Beers, Botswana’s government holds the rest. In 2012, following negotiations prompted by the government, De Beers started moved its sorting and sales operations to the capital city of Gaborone.

Then last month Rapaport News reported that Namibia hopes to break its dependency on De Beers and “develop its diamond industry beyond mining to enable job creation in cutting and polishing and now trading.”

Still, Canada’s industry is young, having started with the Ekati mine in 1998. “Compare that with South Africa, where it’s well over 100 years old,” Gavin points out. “Our diamond bourse itself is only five years old. Compare that to Antwerp, with its storied past of about 500 years.”

Gavin himself goes back a ways. “I was born into the industry,” he says. His grandfather was an Amsterdam diamond cutter who learned his trade in Antwerp. In 1926 he took a job at a Cape Town diamond cutting factory before opening his own in Johannesburg. “Dad went into the business and I went into the business. We go back 100 years and I’ve been in the business 33 years.”

Although a nation-wide association, the bourse traces its source to Ontario’s provincial government. “When the Victor diamond mine was about to open the Ontario government considered the diamond mining industry as uncharted waters,” Gavin recalls. “They felt there had to be some kind of representation from an industry standpoint.” The province encouraged stakeholders to form an association which eventually evolved into the national exchange.

With offices in downtown Toronto, the bourse holds special sales and regular Wednesday afternoon trading events. The facility also features viewing rooms and an appraisal lab, while the bourse maintains a bonded warehouse. An additional line of communication connects buyers and sellers through IBOURSE, an online trading platform. “It has 5,000 stones currently listed. Obviously the internet will play a big part in our future.”

The Diamond Bourse of Canada wants to encourage secondary industry while enhancing our global stature

With a century-long family connection
to the industry, David Gavin brings
33 years of experience to the
Diamond Bourse of Canada.

Apart from practical services the association “gives members a voice and a point of reference of what’s happening worldwide with the diamond markets,” he adds. Last month’s entry into the World Federation of Diamond Bourses “raises our profile both internally and externally. We’re now part and parcel of the world diamond community, which is going to open up markets for some of our diamond sellers and new markets for people outside Canada.”

Of course the country already enjoys considerable global stature. That was cleverly expressed by MDL Diamonds last month when the manufacturing and brokerage firm unveiled its new Arcticmark brand by adding to the four Cs of diamonds: “Cut, colour, clarity, carat and now Canadian. This is the new definition of outstanding quality of diamonds.”

Canada’s most important distinction “is responsible mining,” Gavin points out. “There’s a chain of custody that’s very transparent from extraction to marketplace. Not just with diamonds but in general with any product, people want to know there’s social responsibility in how these goods are procured. It’s very easy to track Canadian diamonds from mine to market.”

That applies to diamonds from Canada that are cut and polished abroad. “They are of Canadian origin and adhere to the Kimberley Process,” he says. “They are easily identifiable as Canadian.”

Then there’s the quality, Gavin adds. De Beers, for example, calls Victor “one of the highest-quality producing diamond mines in the world,” surpassing even the renown of Northwest Territories mines.

“The gem quality of the rough that’s coming out of Canada is high. Compare that to South Africa, where there’s a certain percentage that’s gem quality and the rest of it’s industrial.”

Among other goals, he would like the bourse to form closer relations with mining companies. “We can offer some insight into a different aspect of the business.”

Gavin also wants to raise awareness of Canada’s diamond industry within Canada itself. “If more people knew the industry benefits all Canadians, maybe they would want to keep more diamonds in the country and expand the secondary industry here.”

Read about diamond mining and exploration in Canada here and here.

Towards Canadian REE R&D

June 27th, 2014

Industry calls on government to support a Canadian rare earths supply chain

by Greg Klein

Free markets supposedly work free of government meddling. But what capitalist would refer to free money, even from government, as “meddling”? Anyway, as a number of industry and academic spokespeople told a Canadian parliamentary committee, other governments do it. Canada lags far behind not only China, but also the U.S. and Australia, in funding research and development for a national rare earths industry.

Industry calls on government to support a Canadian rare earths supply chain

That was among the salient points of a 30-page summary of evidence that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources released earlier this month. The challenge, of course, is to develop Canadian expertise that can diminish some of China’s near-monopoly on supply, demand and the various stages of processing commonly considered inscrutable to non-Chinese.

With light and heavy rare earths considered critical minerals for their economic importance and supply risk, the urgency becomes greater. All the more so because China’s “costs of producing ‘cheap’ rare earths are becoming increasingly unsustainable in terms of the environment, the availability of reserves, the health of its communities and the political ramifications,” according to a Secutor Capital Management report about Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram deposit in Quebec.

Other governments are putting up money. The U.S. has invested nearly $120 million to REE R&D over five years, the inquiry heard. Australia has committed $80 million over three years. But during a three-year period ending in March, Canada doled out a mere $1 million.

Canadian industry, on the other hand, matched every federal dollar given to Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetMINING research agency with $5 of its own. Most of it went to R&D.

“Canada is in a race with Australia, the U.S. and others to develop an industry,” Avalon Rare Metals TSX:AVL VP of sales and marketing Pierre Neatby told the committee. “Canada’s opportunity is now.”

There are other contenders too. Urging the feds on, Matamec Explorations TSXV:MAT president/CEO Andre Gauthier said, “Other countries, such as Brazil and Vietnam, are planning the development of their own rare earths industry and they are making it a priority.”

The inquiry also heard that Korea, Japan, the UK, Belgium, Germany and the EU “have created institutions and research programs that aim at diversifying the existing rare earth supply sources, recycling existing products and developing substitute materials to minimize the use of rare earth metals.”

According to Pele Mountain Resources TSXV:GEM president Al Shefsky, Canada “can lead and win, but [it] must act decisively…. If Canada does not adopt a national strategy, it will lose an extraordinary opportunity for economic growth and employment to foreign competitors who are investing heavily to seize this opportunity.”

A national rare earth supply chain “is essential to Canada’s strategic and economic security,” he added. “With world-class deposits of its own, Canada is in a unique position not only to produce rare earths, but to create its own rare earth supply chain, thereby creating billions of dollars of economic activity along with thousands of high-paying jobs.”

That potential comes from Canada’s deposits, roughly 40% to 50% of the world’s known rare earths resources, witnesses told the inquiry. Another advantage lies in Canada’s stability compared to countries like South Africa and Kyrgyzstan.

[The Canadian Rare Earth Elements Research Network wants to] establish a Canadian-based rare earths production and secure 20% of critical REE global supply by 2018.

But “no two REE deposits are the same,” pointed out representatives of the Canadian Rare Earth Elements Research Network. “Each deposit requires unique, costly and innovative engineering on front-end processing.”

Yet CREEN’s ambition expresses considerable optimism. The organization wants to “establish a Canadian-based rare earths production and secure 20% of critical REE global supply by 2018,” the committee stated. “CREEN is comprised of mining companies, academia, government, research centres, consulting firms and other organizations that are working together to develop innovative solutions to the various challenges faced by this sector.” By press time CREEN chairperson Ian London had not responded to a interview request. (Update: Read an interview with Ian London here.)

What becomes of the committee’s work isn’t clear. A House of Commons committees directorate clerk tells, “There’s no recommendations to the government in the summary evidence and no request to the government to answer back.”

Download the committee’s 30-page summary.

Read more about China’s control of the rare earths supply chain.

Disclaimer: Commerce Resources Corp is a client of OnPage Media Corp, the publisher of The principals of OnPage Media may hold shares in Commerce Resources.

Opportunities in opulence

March 7th, 2014

From Canada to Antwerp, diamond explorers, miners and traders serve a thriving market

by Greg Klein

For giant miners and junior explorers alike, diamonds upheld their market lustre in 2013 and show further encouragement this year. So it wasn’t quite an industry-wide shock when one record-shattering sale fell through. A group of investors fronted by New York diamond cutter Isaac Wolf defaulted on last November’s $83.2-million bid for the Pink Star, Sotheby’s revealed late last month. Now the auctioneer’s out the $60 million guaranteed to the anonymous seller. But the company retains the stone, to which it attributes an “inventory” value of $72 million. Meanwhile, undeterred by the caprice of the super-rich, efforts continue to find, mine and market opulence for the affluent.

This month Rio Tinto NYE:RIO heads to Antwerp and Israel for the company’s first rough diamond tender of 2014. Rio says this offer of 124 lots “showcases a unique combination of white and fancy-coloured rough diamonds” from its mines in Australia, the Northwest Territories and Zimbabwe. Among notable stones from the NWT’s Diavik, Rio’s peddling a 70-carat white diamond, several purple diamonds and some “fancy and intense” yellow diamonds.

From Canada to Antwerp, diamond explorers, miners and traders serve a thriving market

Kennady Diamonds has infill drilling underway
at its Northwest Territories diamond project.

Once pulled out of the ground, about 80% of the world’s diamonds go to Antwerp, the undisputed capital of global trade since the 15th century. The city handles about $11.2 billion worth of rough stones annually, out of a global total of $14.2 billion, according to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. Vying for a piece of the action are some 1,850 local companies crowded into their own fabled district with “Flemish, Orthodox Jewish and Indian diamantaires working alongside manufacturers, rough and polished dealers, buyers and services providers from almost every country in which diamonds are mined, processed, bought and sold.”

The centre characterized last January as an “excellent 2014 kick-off” in which the value of exports jumped 27.7% and imports 21% over the same month last year. Exports showed “an all-around increase, principally to the usual consumer markets India, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong.”

Polished diamonds picked up too. January exports improved 9.69% and imports 13.79% in value over the same month in 2013.

Although the stones’ esthetic vagaries complicate matters, diamond prices remained relatively stable last year, avoiding the declines seen in precious metals. Giants did well, with Rio reporting a 15% increase in diamond revenue over 2012. De Beers proclaimed 2013 “a strong year of growth” for its Forevermark diamond brand, “driven predominantly by continued consumer demand in core markets, China, U.S., India and Japan.” Many Canadian-listed juniors and mid-tiers rose well above the malaise suffered by their counterparts in other commodities.

Among activity within Canada, Kennady Diamonds TSXV:KDI continues working towards a maiden resource for its eponymous project in the NWT. Infill drilling began last week, according to a March 6 statement, part of a plan to better define the Kelvin kimberlite body prior to a mini-bulk sample of 25 to 30 tonnes. Last year a 4.3-tonne sample from Kelvin showed 5.38 carats per tonne with the three largest diamonds comprising “a 2.48-carat off-white transparent octahedral, 1.06-carat off-white broken aggregate and a 0.9-carat off-white transparent irregular,” Kennady stated.

The March 6 update also reported an amended exploration agreement with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation and receipt of a five-year land use permit and seven-year water licence.

The same day Shore Gold TSX:SGF announced a “target for further exploration” for its central Saskatchewan properties. A TFFE uses exploration data to disclose potential quantity and grade that might not be realized in an eventual resource estimate. On that basis, Shore’s TFFE for seven kimberlites “is estimated to include between 983 million and 1.17 billion tonnes of kimberlite containing between 52 and 90 million carats.”

The seven kimberlites spread over two properties, Shore’s wholly-owned Star-Orion South project and the adjacent Fort à la Corne, a joint venture shared 67%/33% between Shore and Newmont Mining Corp of Canada TSX:NMC.

A 2011 feasibility study showed a probable reserve for the Star and Orion South deposits:

  • Star: 165.89 million tonnes averaging 12.3 carats per hundred tonnes for 20.386 million carats of diamonds

  • Orion South: 113.09 million tonnes averaging 12.4 cpht for 13.994 million carats

  • Total: 278.98 million tonnes averaging 12.3 cpht for 34.38 million carats

The two deposits also have inferred resources totalling 9.1 million carats.

In other Canadian diamond activity, North Arrow Minerals TSXV:NAR closed a $5-million private placement late last month to fund three projects, two of them 80% options with Stornoway Diamond TSX:SWY. The Qilalugaq property in Nunavut is slated for a 1,500-tonne bulk sample and an Antwerp valuation next summer. Pikoo, a Saskatchewan project heralded for its diamond discovery in November, is expected to undergo till sampling this year to seek out additional kimberlites.

On the earlier-stage Redemption project in the NWT, North Arrow holds a 55% option with Arctic Star Exploration TSXV:ADD. This year’s plans include till sampling and geophysics at the 11,493-hectare project, 32 kilometres from the Ekati mine and 47 from the Diavik mine.

Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC looms large in the region, holding an 80% interest in Ekati, 58.8% of the mine’s Buffer zone and 40% of Diavik. Chuck Fipke and Stewart Blusson, two pioneers of Canadian diamond exploration, each hold 10% of Ekati, while Rio holds 60% of Diavik. Dominion ranks fourth worldwide for diamond production by value.

An Antwerp report that came through in late February evaluated a 1,013.5-carat parcel of commercial-size stones for Peregrine Diamonds TSX:PGD. Taken from the CH-6 kimberlite pipe in Nunavut, the gems were priced at an average of $213 per carat for a total of $215,605. Peregrine has a resource scheduled for CH-6 by the end of Q2.

The valuation was conducted by WWW International Diamond Consultants, a company that’s familiar with Canadian projects and currently evaluating diamonds for Gahcho Kué in the NWT. JV partners De Beers (51%) and Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV (49%) plan to use the data in a feasibility update scheduled for release by the end of March. Gahcho Kué’s expected to become Canada’s next diamond mine.

Read more about diamond mining and exploration in Canada here and here.

Israel’s diamond exports rising while industry battles legislators

January 17th, 2014

by Ana Komnenic | January 16, 2014 | Reprinted by permission of

Israel’s polished diamond exports rose by 12% over the past year, after a 23% dip in 2012, the Israeli Diamond Industry announced on January 16.

Israel’s diamond exports rising while industry battles legislators

The Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, Israel.

The country’s trade in polished precious stones brought in $6.2 billion—$1 billion less than in 2011, a record year for polished diamond exports. Rough diamond exports totalled $2.9 billion, compared to $2.8 billion in 2012.

The U.S. is still Israel’s biggest customer with 37% of the market, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, Belgium and then India.

“The global diamond industry faced serious economic challenges in 2013—high rough diamond prices, a slowdown in Asian markets and a reduction in credit,” Moti Ganz, chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute said in a statement. “Despite that, the Israeli Diamond Industry was able to achieve significant growth through creativity and resourcefulness.”

In an interview posted on the organization’s website, Israel’s diamond controller Shmuel Mordechai said that while exports have recovered somewhat from last year, profitability is still suffering.

“The percentage of profits has dropped, and it may be that some of the firms experienced losses,” Mordechai said.

The industry also faces a dilemma because while the price of uncut stones rose “dramatically … there was no corresponding increase in the prices of polished diamonds,” Mordechai explained.

Israeli diamond traders have also been fighting lawmakers who are introducing anti-money laundering legislation.

“We hope that the continued advancing of the restriction will happen in lockstep with the industry, but if it doesn’t, it will happen in any case without the industry’s approval,” Mordechai said.

The restrictions are currently being drafted and are part of a broader move to make Israel’s diamond industry more transparent, especially in regards to “blood diamonds.”

Mordechai recently told Haaretz that within a year gemological labs will have to be licensed and adhere to a set of standards for determining the origin of the stones.

Israel is a big player in the global diamond industry; the country’s Diamond Exchange is the largest of its kind in the world.

Reprinted by permission of