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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 MINING.com

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 MINING.com

Diamond prices to jump next year—Alrosa

December 2nd, 2013

by Cecilia Jamasmie | December 2, 2013 | Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

The world’s biggest diamonds producer, Alrosa is anticipating a big jump in prices for these gems due to both reduced production in the medium term and increasing demand.

Diamond prices to jump next year—Alrosa

In a meeting in Belgium between the company’s executives and its long-term clients, Alrosa’s head Fyodor Andreev said rough diamond prices have been on the rise in the last few months and that the trend is likely to continue.

The company’s predictions are in line with a few recently published reports pointing to a steady demand from the U.S., paired with an ever-growing appetite for these precious stones in China and India, as the main factors to affect diamond prices next year.

Alrosa also announced it has signed a co-operation agreement with the Antwerp World Diamond Centre aimed at improving the efficiency of co-operation between them over the next three years.

The deal also sets forth the intention for both parties to contribute to the development of a competitive rough and polished diamond market in Russia and the promotion of Alrosa’s diamonds in the Belgian market.

Alrosa and the Antwerp diamond sector will now work more closely, exchanging expertise and information regarding the implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

In addition, both parties have committed to exchanging information, such as market intelligence, and informing each other on industry events, such as seminars and conferences, the development of new technologies or market opportunities.

The co-operation agreement also provides an opportunity to set up diamond grading and sorting courses for Russian students at HRD Antwerp.

Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Athabasca Basin and beyond

September 22nd, 2013

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for September 14 to 20, 2013

by Greg Klein

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Fission and Alpha sign acquisition agreement, Denison challenges Mega for Rockgate

Another burst of merger and acquisition activity hit the markets last week. Joint September 18 statements from Fission Uranium TSXV:FCU and Alpha Minerals TSXV:AMW announced a definitive agreement for the former’s acquisition of the latter. The proposed Mega Uranium TSX:MGA/Rockgate Capital TSX:RGT merger, however, took a surprising turn with Denison Mines’ TSX:DML unsolicited pitch for Rockgate. Denison’s September 17 announcement claimed a 38% premium over Mega’s offer, based on the previous day’s closing prices.

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for September 14 to 20, 2013

In addition to taking a run at Rockgate, Denison filed a revised
43-101 report for six deposits on its Mutanga property in Zambia.

The Fission/Alpha rationale is to put their 50/50 joint venture under a single owner, creating a company solely focused on Patterson Lake South and presumably a more attractive takeover target. Their other properties would go to two newly created spincos. Should Denison’s offer succeed, the company would spin out its African assets along with Rockgate’s advanced-stage Mali project. That would leave Denison focused on the Athabasca Basin.

Read more about these proposals and other uranium M&A news.

(Update: On September 24 Rockgate terminated its proposed merger with Mega. Read more.)

PLS assay backlog grows as Fission/Alpha release more scintillometer results

Step-out drilling confirmed strong mineralization in Patterson Lake South’s newest zone, Alpha and Fission stated on September 16. The JV partners released scintillometer readings for two new holes on zone R945E, the fourth of four zones along a 1.02-kilometre southwest-northeast trend.

The hand-held device measures drill core gamma rays in counts per second, up to an off-scale reading above 9,999 cps. The results are no substitute for assays, which are pending.

Hole PLS13-092 was collared roughly 10 metres north of existing holes. It reached a total downhole depth of 377 metres, striking the basement unconformity at 59 metres without encountering sandstone. Some highlights include:

  • <300 to 1,400 cps over 3 metres, starting at 157.5 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 16 metres, starting at 163 metres

  • <300 to 1,800 cps over 11 metres, starting at 192.5 metres

  • 460 to 2,500 cps over 2.5 metres, starting at 238 metres

PLS13-096 was collared about 15 metres grid west of PLS-084, replacing it as the zone’s most southwesterly hole. It found no sandstone, hit the basement unconformity at 56.5 metres and stopped at 365 metres. Highlights include:

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 42.5 metres, starting at 135.5 metres in downhole depth

  • 310 to >9,999 cps over 11.5 metres, starting at 185.5 metres

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 10.5 metres, starting at 235.5 metres

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 14.5 metres, starting at 249 metres

True widths weren’t available. The two holes were drilled at -88 and -89 degree angles respectively, making downhole depths close to vertical.

The $6.95-million program calls for 44 holes totalling 11,000 metres, along with geophysics. These results bring the summer’s drilling to 27 holes totalling 8,488 metres. So far just one of the holes has had lab assays released. Scintillometer readings have been reported for 18 holes this summer.

Denison files combined resources for Mutanga property in Zambia

Denison has filed a new NI 43-101 report to replace two previous reports for its Mutanga property in Zambia, the company announced on September 16. The New Mutanga Report follows an Ontario Securities Commission review of a resource filed in March 2012 for the property’s Dibwe East deposit. The OSC declared that report non-compliant because it didn’t include all resource estimates and material information for the property as a whole. Denison’s new report incorporates information covered in a 2009 report on the Mutanga and Dibwe deposits, as well as the 2012 info for Dibwe East.

Of the project’s six deposits, only Mutanga shows measured, indicated and inferred categories. Mutanga Extension, Mutanga East, Mutanga West, Dibwe and Dibwe East have inferred pounds only. Combined, the estimate shows:

  • a measured resource of 1.88 million tonnes averaging 0.048% for 2 million pounds uranium oxide (U3O8)

  • an indicated resource of 8.4 million tonnes averaging 0.031% for 5.8 million pounds

  • inferred resources totalling 65.2 million tonnes averaging 0.029% for 41.4 million pounds

The 457.3-square-kilometre property is about 200 kilometres south of the capital city of Lusaka, near the Zimbabwean border.

The previous week, Denison updated two Athabasca Basin projects with a new resource for Waterbury Lake and more high-grade assays from Wheeler River.

Lakeland Resources options gold project to focus on Athabasca uranium

Now a pure play uranium explorer, Lakeland Resources TSXV:LK optioned a north-central Ontario gold property to New Dimension Resources TSXV:NDR, the companies announced September 16. New Dimension may earn a 70% interest in the Midas project by paying $100,000, spending $1.2 million and issuing 1.5 million shares. New Dimension must spend $300,000 on exploration by December 31.

We’re maintaining our focus on uranium, yet we’re not giving away what could turn out to be a valuable asset in the end. In our view there’s no downside to our shareholders, only a potential upside.—Roger Leschuk, corporate communications manager for Lakeland Resources

The 2,112-hectare road-accessible property has already seen ground magnetics, induced polarization and 16 drill holes that partially defined two gold-bearing zones, with 14 holes showing gold mineralization. Among the assays was 5.92 grams per tonne gold over 4.7 metres, starting at 45.7 metres in depth and including 8.88 g/t over 2.6 metres.

“We get to maintain an interest in a property that looks very encouraging to say the least,” Lakeland corporate communications manager Roger Leschuk tells ResourceClips.com. “The people who are picking it up are a very good group and they see this as potentially becoming their flagship property. The great part about it for Lakeland is we retain a 30% interest all the way potentially to a new discovery. We’re maintaining our focus on uranium, yet we’re not giving away what could turn out to be a valuable asset in the end. In our view there’s no downside to our shareholders, only a potential upside.”

A fall drill program is expected to begin shortly, the companies stated.

Read more about Lakeland Resources.

Forum announces fall/winter plans for its PLS-adjacent Clearwater project

In a September 17 report, Forum Uranium TSXV:FDC updated its Clearwater project, which underwent ground radiometric prospecting, lake sediment geochemical surveys and soil radon surveys in late August and early September. The radon survey found anomalous zones immediately southwest of the adjacent PLS property, the company stated. Forum now plans further prospecting of radiometric anomalies, as well as an expanded radon survey to cover areas with electromagnetic conductors on strike with the PLS conductive trend. Autumn is scheduled for ground EM surveys and early winter for ground gravity work to identify drill targets for the 9,910-hectare property in late January.

One week earlier Forum said its private placement raised $2.59 million.

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