Thursday 20th July 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘south africa’

Ivanhoe veteran Matthew Hornor joins Aurvista Gold as president/CEO

May 23rd, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 23, 2017

Management changes should help Aurvista Gold TSXV:AVA move to the next level as Matthew Hornor takes charge of financial and business development while Jean Lafleur leads exploration at the company’s Douay project in Abitibi.

Ivanhoe veteran Matthew Hornor joins Aurvista Gold as president/CEO

Hornor’s background includes 10 years as VP and executive VP for Ivanhoe Mines, where he negotiated deals with international banking syndicates, strategic alliances and equity financings totalling more than $450 million. He also spent 10 years as managing director for Ivanhoe Capital and four years as chairperson for Ivanplats Holding SARL, owner of the Platreef platinum-palladium mine in South Africa.

As president/CEO of Kaizen Discovery TSXV:KZD from 2013 to 2016, Hornor arranged project acquisitions, equity financings and a collaboration agreement with ITOCHU Corp, a prominent Japanese trading and investment house. Fluent in Japanese, he began his mining career in Japan 27 years ago. He visits the country frequently, maintaining relationships with major corporations, mining companies, investment firms and trading houses.

The appointment also allows Jean Lafleur to move from president/CEO to VP of exploration on the Douay project in Abitibi’s Casa Berardi deformation zone. Hornor’s experience “speaks for itself,” Lafleur said, “and having his corporate, capital markets and project financing leadership will help us accelerate the company’s growth and true value. I look forward to leading our exploration team in Quebec and working with our group to define the ultimate extent of gold mineralization at Douay.”

Well underway is a 43-hole, 30,000-metre campaign with an update planned later this year for a resource that currently shows an inferred 83.3 million tonnes averaging 1.05 g/t for 2.81 million gold ounces. Among results released so far, the company announced stepout intercepts earlier this month despite an assay lab backlog caused by the pace of drilling. In March Aurvista announced initial metallurgical test results in line with comparable Abitibi projects.

Last month the company more than doubled its Douay land position, which now stands at 30,500 hectares. Aurvista holds a 100% interest in about 29,300 hectares and a 75% interest in the 1,190-hectare North West zone, with the remainder held by JV partner SOQUEM, the mineral exploration branch of the provincial government’s Investissement Québec.

Read more about Aurvista Gold.

More critical than ever

April 13th, 2017

The USGS promotes awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

by Greg Klein

Let’s call it Critical Minerals Awareness Month. The U.S. Geological Survey hasn’t actually labelled April that way, but the agency does have a “big push” underway to inform American decision-makers and the general public about the country’s often tenuous hold on commodities vital to the economy and security of that country. Of course those concerns apply to its allies as well.

The USGS promotes public awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

“We decided to do a big push on critical minerals in April largely because we’ve got several big publications coming out on the subject,” USGS public affairs specialist Alex Demas tells ResourceClips.com.

“One of the things we’ve been focusing on is supply chain security, so with the sheer number of mineral commodities that are used in the United States, and the number of them deemed critical, we felt it was important to emphasize where a lot of those mineral resources are coming from and if there are any potential issues in the supply chain, getting them from the source to the United States.”

Computers provide an obvious example, increasing their use from “just 12 elements in the 1980s to as many as 60 by 2006,” points out one recent USGS news release. Smartphones offer another example. Looking back 30 years ago, “‘portable’ phones were the size of a shoebox and consisted of 25 to 30 elements,” states another USGS release. “Today they fit in your pocket or on your wrist and are made from about 75 different elements, almost three-quarters of the periodic table.”

Larry Meinert, USGS deputy associate director for energy and minerals, pointed out some of the sources. “For instance, the industrial sand used to make the quartz in smartphone screens may come from the United States or China, but the potassium added to enhance screen strength could come from Canada, Russia or Belarus. Australia, Chile and Argentina often produce the lithium used in battery cathodes, while the hard-to-come-by tantalum—used in smartphone circuitry—mostly comes from Congo, Rwanda and Brazil.”

That brings an ominous warning. “With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever.”

The campaign also reveals the agency’s methods for tracking this essential stuff. A USGS-designed early warning system described as “mathematically rigorous and elegant” helps the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency monitor a watch list of about 160 minerals. Not all have been labelled critical, but those so defined can change due to technological development and geopolitical conflict.

The USGS itself tracks something like 90 minerals important to the American economy or security but sourced from about 180 countries. For last year the agency identified 20 minerals on which the U.S. relied entirely on imports and 47 on which the country imported more than half its supply.

Not all the source countries are always best buddies with the West. China supplies most of America’s mined commodities, including 24 of the 47 minerals supplied 51% or more by imports. Among the critical items are rare earth elements, 100% imported, over 90% directly from China and much of the rest through supply chains originating there.

As a supplier, Canada came a distant second, the chief provider of 16 minerals, not all of them critical. Runners-up Mexico, Russia and South Africa were each chief suppliers for eight American mineral imports.

Among the research reports coming soon will be “a compendium of everything the USGS knows about 23 minerals critical to the United States,” Demas says. “It’s going to cover the industry side of things, the reserves, production, shipment, etc. It’s going to cover geology and sustainability. Each chapter on each mineral will have a section on how this can be mined sustainably so we can meet our needs not only today, but also in the future.”

In part the publications target “decision-makers in Congress, as well as the Defense Department and others who use mineral resources,” Demas adds. But he emphasizes the campaign wasn’t motivated by the proposed METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security). Currently before U.S. Congress, the bill calls on government to support domestic resources and supply chains of critical and strategic minerals. On introducing the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter argued the risk of foreign dependence to national security “is too great and it urgently demands that we re-establish our depleted domestic industrial base.”

As Demas notes, “Since we are a non-regulatory, non-policy agency, we don’t directly influence policy. But we do want policy-makers to have our tools available so they can make the best science-informed decisions.”

And while this month will see special attention to critical minerals, Demas says the subject’s an ongoing concern for the USGS. Some of the reports coming out now will be updates of annual publications.

“We’re really trying to promote the idea that USGS has a lot of really useful information that we put out all the time,” he adds. “This information will hopefully be useful to people when they’re considering where their resources are coming from.”

Follow USGS news here.

Read about the West’s dependence on non-allied countries for critical minerals here and here.

Infographic visualizes the world’s deepest oil well

March 20th, 2017

Infographic by Fuel Fighter | text by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | March 20, 2017

In the world’s deepest gold mine, workers venture four kilometres below the Earth’s surface to extract gold from a 0.8-metre-wide vein of ore.

While these depths are impressive, mining is limited by the frailty of the human body. Going much deeper would be incredibly dangerous, as limitations such as heat, humidity, logistics and potential seismic activity all become more intense.

Luckily, the oil industry does not have such human restrictions and drilling deep into the Earth’s crust is instead limited by a different set of circumstances—how deep can the machinery and technology go before the unfathomable heat and pressure renders it inoperable?

The world’s deepest oil well

This infographic comes to us from Fuel Fighter and it helps visualize the mind-boggling depths of the world’s deepest oil well, which is located in a remote corner of eastern Russia.

 

Visualizing the world’s deepest oil well

 

The world’s deepest oil well, known as Z-44 Chayvo, goes over 12 kilometres into the ground—equal to 15 Burj Khalifas (the tallest skyscraper) stacked on top of each other. That’s also equal to twice the record height for air balloon flight.

Perhaps more importantly to the operator, Exxon Neftegas Ltd, the wells on this shelf are expected to produce a total of 2.3 billion barrels of oil.

That’s some serious depth

But even before the Z-44 Chayvo Well and other holes like it were drilled on the eastern side of Russia, the famous Kola Superdeep Borehole set the record for drill depth.

Located in western Russia, this time just 10 kilometres from the border with Norway, the Kola Superdeep Borehole was rumoured to have been discontinued in 1992 because it actually reached “hell” itself. At its most extreme depth, the drill had pierced a super-hot cavity and scientists thought they heard the screams of damned souls.

All folklore aside, the Kola Superdeep Borehole is super interesting in its own right. It revealed many important things about our planet and it still holds the record for depth below the surface.

Read more about deep underground mining.

Infographic: Countries of origin for raw materials

November 16th, 2016

Graphic by BullionVault | text by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | November 16, 2016

Every “thing” comes from somewhere.

Whether we are talking about an iPhone or a battery, even the most complex technological device is made up of raw materials that originate in a mine, farm, well or forest somewhere in the world.

This infographic from BullionVault shows the top three producing countries of various commodities such as oil, gold, coffee and iron.

Infographic Countries of origin for raw materials

 

The many and the few

The origins of the world’s most important raw materials are interesting to examine because the production of certain commodities is much more concentrated than others.

Oil, for example, is extracted by many countries throughout the world because it forms in fairly universal circumstances. Oil is also a giant market and a strategic resource, so some countries are even willing to produce it at a loss. The largest three crude oil-producing countries are the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia—but that only makes up 38% of the total market.

Contrast this with the market for some base metals such as iron or lead and the difference is clear. China consumes mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to feed its factories, so it tries to get them domestically. That’s why China alone produces 45% of the world’s iron and 52% of all lead. Nearby Australia also finds a way to take advantage of this: It is the second-largest producer for each of those commodities and ships much of its output to Chinese trading partners. A total of two-thirds of the world’s iron and lead comes from these two countries, making production extremely concentrated.

But even that pales in comparison with the market for platinum, which is so heavily concentrated that only a few countries are significant producers. South Africa extracts 71% of all platinum, while Russia and Zimbabwe combine for another 19% of global production. That means only one in every 10 ounces of platinum comes from a country other than those three sources.

Graphic by BullionVault | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Ontario backs deep-mining research with $2.5-million grant

November 2nd, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 2, 2016

Sudbury’s status as a global capital of mining R&D gained additional recognition with a $2.5-million provincial grant. Announced at the Mining Innovation Summit on November 1, the money goes to the non-profit Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation and its Ultra Deep Mining Network.

Ontario backs deep-mining research with $2.5-million grant

The UDMN works to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability of operations at depths below 2.5 kilometres. While China has announced support for deep-mining research as part of its Three Deep program, the alarming accident rate at South African mines has been attributed partly to the unprecedented depths of some operations, one breaching the four-kilometre mark.

Ontario hosts two of the world’s 10 deepest mines, according to Mining-Technology.com. Vale’s Creighton nickel-copper mine in Sudbury holds tenth place, at about 2.5 kilometres’ depth. Glencore’s Kidd copper-zinc mine in the Timmins region holds eighth place at slightly more than three kilometres. The other eight mines are all South African gold operations.

Another type of research goes on at Creighton, which hosts the SNOLAB physics experiments including the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory that won Art McDonald a Nobel Prize in 2015.

Why Creighton? As quantum physicist Damian Pope told the National Post, the lab’s two kilometres of rock shields neutrinos from other sub-atomic particles, allowing them to be studied in relative isolation. That research, conducted where the sun don’t shine, somehow helped eggheads understand how the sun shines.

As for mining research, Sudbury hosts nine institutes dedicated to innovation, the province stated. Ontario now has 42 operating mines supporting 26,000 direct jobs and 50,000 additional jobs associated with mining and processing, according to a statement from mines minister Michael Gravelle. He valued Ontario’s 2015 mineral production at $10.8 billion.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines hosted the two-day Sudbury summit to bring together “government, industry, academia, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, as well as research and innovation organizations” to further encourage mining innovation.

Read about Laurentian University’s Metal Earth project.

Pushing the boundaries

October 12th, 2016

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes challenging human endurance

by Greg Klein

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

“Deep underground, deep sky and deep sea” comprise the lofty goals of Three Deep, a five-year program announced last month by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources. Part 1 of this feature looked at the country’s ambitions to take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land, at sea and into the heavens, and also outlined other countries’ space programs related to mineral exploration. Part 2 delves into undersea mining as well as some of the world’s deepest mines.

Looking to the ocean depths, undersea mining has had tangible success. De Beers has been scooping up alluvial diamonds off southwestern Africa for decades, although at shallow depths. Through NamDeb, a 50/50 JV with Namibia, a fleet of six boats mines the world’s largest-known placer diamond deposit, about 20 kilometres offshore and 150 metres deep.

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

Workers at AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng operation
must withstand the heat of deep underground mining.

Diamond Fields International TSXV:DFI hopes to return to its offshore Namibian claims, where the company extracted alluvial stones between 2005 and 2008. The company also holds a 50.1% interest in Atlantis II, a zinc-copper-silver deposit contained in Red Sea sediments. That project’s now on hold pending a dispute with the Saudi Arabian JV partner.

With deeper, more technologically advanced ambitions, Nautilus Minerals TSX:NUS holds a mining licence for its 85%-held Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea waters. A seafloor massive sulphide deposit at an average depth of 1,550 metres, its grades explain the company’s motivation. The project has a 2012 resource using a 2.6% copper-equivalent cutoff, with the Solwara 1 and 1 North areas showing:

  • indicated: 1.03 million tonnes averaging 7.2% copper, 5 g/t gold, 23 g/t silver and 0.4% zinc

  • inferred: 1.54 million tonnes averaging 8.1% copper, 6.4 g/t gold, 34 g/t silver and 0.9% zinc

Using the same cutoff, the Solwara 12 zone shows:

  • inferred: 2.3 million tonnes averaging 7.3% copper, 3.6 g/t gold, 56 g/t silver and 3.6% zinc
Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

This Nautilus diagram illustrates
the proposed Solwara operation.

A company video shows how Nautilus had hoped to operate “the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mine” beginning in 2018 using existing technology from land-based mining and offshore oil and gas. Now, should financial restructuring succeed, Nautilus says it could begin deployment and testing by the end of Q1 2019.

Last May Nautilus released a resource update for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the central Pacific waters of Tonga.

Another deep-sea hopeful, Ocean Minerals last month received approval from the Cook Islands to explore a 12,000-square-kilometre seabed expanse for rare earths in sediments.

A pioneer in undersea exploration, Japan’s getting ready for the next step, according to Bloomberg. A consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal will begin pilot mining in Chinese-contested waters off Okinawa next April, the news agency stated. “Japan has confirmed the deposit has about 7.4 million tons of ore,” Bloomberg added, without specifying what kind of ore.

Scientists are analyzing data from the central Indian Ocean where nodules show signs of copper, nickel and manganese, the Times of India reported in January. The country has a remotely operated vehicle capable of an unusually deep 6,000 metres and is working on undersea mining technology.

In August the World Nuclear News stated Russia is considering a nuclear-powered submarine to explore northern seas for mineral deposits. A government report said the sub’s R&D could put the project on par with the country’s space industry, the WNN added.

If one project alone could justify China’s undersea ambitions, it might be a 470.47-ton gold deposit announced last November. Lying at 2,000 metres’ depth off northern China, the bounty was delineated by 1,000 workers and 120 kilometres of drilling from 67 sea platforms over three years, the People’s Daily reported. Laizhou Rehi Mining hopes to extract the stuff, according to China Daily.

China’s deep underground ambitions might bring innovation to exploration but have been long preceded by actual mining in South Africa—although not without problems, as the country’s deplorable safety record shows. Greater depths bring greater threats from rockfalls and mini-earthquakes.

At 3.9 kilometres’ depth AngloGold Ashanti’s (NYSE:AU) Mponeng holds status as the world’s deepest mine. Five other mines within 50 kilometres of Johannesburg work from at least three kilometres’ depth, where “rock temperatures can reach 60 degrees Celsius, enough to fry an egg,” according to a Bloomberg article posted by Mineweb.com.

In his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal, Matthew Hart recounts a visit to Mponeng, where he’s told a “seismic event” shakes the mine 600 times a month.

Sometimes the quakes cause rockbursts, when rock explodes into a mining cavity and mows men down with a deadly spray of jagged rock. Sometimes a tremor causes a “fall of ground”—the term for a collapse. Some of the rockbursts had been so powerful that other countries, detecting the seismic signature, had suspected South Africa of testing a nuclear bomb.

AngloGold subjects job-seekers to a heat-endurance test, Hart explains.

In a special chamber, applicants perform step exercises while technicians monitor them. The test chamber is kept at a “wet” temperature of eighty-two degrees. The high humidity makes it feel like ninety-six. “We are trying to force the body’s thermoregulatory system to kick in,” said Zahan Eloff, an occupational health physician. “If your body cools itself efficiently, you are safe to go underground for a fourteen-day trial, and if that goes well, cleared to work.”

Clearly there’s more than technological challenges to mining the deeps.

By the way, credit for the world’s deepest drilling goes to Russia, which spent 24 years sinking the Kola Superdeep Bore Hole to 12,261 metres, halfway to the mantle. Work was halted by temperatures of 180 degrees Celsius.

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

Cry, the resource-rich country

September 30th, 2016

Legal or illegal, South African miners face perils numerous and deadly

by Greg Klein

South African gold mining really got its start with an 1886 discovery and subsequent rush at Langlaagte, then an isolated farm. Already the world’s largest diamond producer, the country went on to become the behemoth of global gold reserves until 2007. But all that wealth left a damning legacy in an extensive network of abandoned tunnels that lure illegal and desperate gold hunters, often to their deaths. A cave-in and several fatalities in mid-September brought Langlaagte back to international prominence. It’s just one of many such stories playing out in South Africa.

The rising death toll shows the problem’s “spiralling out of control,” Bloomberg quoted Christo de Klerk. Addressing a Johannesburg news conference on September 27, the CEO of Mines Rescue Services said his highly trained volunteer group had recovered 24 bodies so far this year, the largest number in seven years of records.

Legal or illegal, South African miners face perils numerous and deadly

The impetus to Johannesburg’s growth came
from an industry with a highly disturbing death rate.

Even this year’s total marks “the tip of the iceberg,” he stressed. Maybe 90% of the casualties never get reported, which would mean hundreds of missing people have died in their graves.

Speaking with Warren Dick of MineWeb.com, de Klerk explained that many of the mines have been abandoned for 60 to 70 years, lacking maps or plans. Without ventilation, gas build-ups can occur. Moreover the diggers often target the pillars, increasing their instability and exacerbating an already dangerous enterprise.

It’s no way to live and a horrible way to die, as shown by some very disturbing photos released by de Klerk’s organization.

This is the world of the zama-zamas, people who might live underground for months at a time. Often working in gangs, they haul in explosives, generators and stockpiles of food, de Klerk told Bloomberg.

Deprived of sunlight for so long, “their skin turns grey,” Matthew Hart wrote in his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal. “The wives and prostitutes who live with them turn grey. In South Africa they call them ghost miners. They inhabit an underground metropolis that in some goldfields can extend for 40 miles, a suffocating labyrinth in which the only glitter is the dream of gold.”

Gang warfare delivers additional menace. De Klerk said most of the illegal miners come from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, whose factions fight underground turf wars. His rescuers have encountered murder victims, in one case a grisly pile of 10 bodies that had been shot execution style, he told MineWeb.com.

The deadly business puts conflict gold on the market. A spokesperson for the SA police elite Hawks unit told Hart that organized crime sends the illicit gold to the Persian Gulf, India and Russia, where it’s laundered into the legitimate bullion trade. “Big players” in police and government support the trade, he said. A 2001 industry study by Peter Gastrow “reached the same conclusion: that an untouchable elite was behind the theft of gold,” Hart wrote.

While rogue miners are said to be predominantly immigrants, they include some South Africans, even legitimate mine employees looking for extra income. In February Sibanye Gold NYSE:SBGL reported two contractors became trapped after entering an abandoned part of the company’s Cooke mine at the end of their shift.

That same day Sibanye reported a fatality in one of its own operations. The SA industry remains deadly, legal or illegal. Harmony Gold Mining NYSE:HMY, for example, reported six separate fatalities so far this year, nearly reaching last year’s total of seven.

In the first eight months of this year 61 people died in South African mines, according to Department of Mineral Resources numbers reported by MiningWeekly.com. Last year’s 12-month total came to 77, according to the industry’s Chamber of Mines.

But in February the Mail and Guardian stated the number of accidents, fatal or not, had risen by 500 in the 12 months prior to February. “In the past five years, there have been at least eight accidents a day in mines, injuring more than 15,000 people,” wrote Athandiwe Saba.

That’s not counting occupational diseases. Earlier this month acting chief mines inspector Xolile Mbonambi told an industry conference that 6,577 cases of mining-related diseases were recorded in 2014, MiningWeekly.com reported. Interim figures for 2015 show a slight improvement in the number of silicosis cases but an increase in TB, which Mbonambi called “an indictment on the industry broadly.”

“Moreover, he highlighted that the repercussions of fatalities extended well beyond the boundaries of mines and had substantial socio-economic impacts, affecting the poorest of the poor locally and communities of neighbouring countries the most,” MiningWeekly.com added.

As for the violence, it doesn’t end with gang rivalries. Rival unions have been killing each other’s members at the rate of several murders a year. Meanwhile the newcomer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union gains members at the expense of the National Union of Mineworkers. Some observers attribute the NUM slide to a lack of confidence following Marikana, where in a single burst of gunfire police killed 34 striking platinum miners in 2012.

If there’s truth to the accusations, South African mining might harbour yet another threat. After Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radebe was gunned down in front of his family last March, some people attributed the murder to his work as an anti-mining activist.

September 16 marked the 30th anniversary of the country’s Kinross disaster, which killed 177 miners.

World’s largest rough diamond fails to meet Lucara’s price expectations

June 29th, 2016

by Greg Klein | June 29, 2016

Dissatisfied with a reported $61-million bid, Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC declined to sell its 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona stone. The company had hoped Sotheby’s June 29 London event would pull in $70 million or more.

The stone’s currently the largest gem-quality diamond in captivity and history’s second largest after the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan diamond. Found in 1905, Cullinan was cut and polished into nine gems for the Crown jewels and royal sceptre. Lucara took the unusual step of delegating the Lesedi La Rona sales job to an auctioneer, not standard procedure for rough. But a heavy promotional campaign failed to find a sufficiently astronomical price.

World’s largest rough diamond fails to meet Lucara’s price expectations

Despite its record size, as well as exceptional quality and
transparency, the Lesedi La Rona drew disappointing bids.
(Photo: Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

Yet the miner’s expectations might have been understandable. In May Lucara sold its 812.77-carat Constellation for $63.11 million, or $77,649 per carat, “the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond,” the company stated. Lucara kept a 10% interest in Constellation’s sale after being cut and polished.

Exceptional cut-and-polished prices in recent months included the Blue Moon of Josephine which went for $48.4 million last March, then considered “a new record price for any gemstone and per carat.” Just one day earlier the same buyer paid $28.5 million for the 16.08-carat Sweet Josephine.

In April, however, Sotheby’s rejected a top bid of $22 million for the 9.54-carat Shirley Temple Blue diamond, having hoped for $25 million to $35 million.

Lucara’s recent record finds came from its Karowe mine in Botswana, aided by an improved recovery circuit. The two Josephines came from South Africa’s Cullinan mine, now operated by Petra Diamonds. That company’s most recent large find weighs in at 121.26 carats. It’s currently on tender.

Earlier this month ALROSA announced one of Russia’s biggest finds, a 241.21-carat rough that followed the previous month’s 207.29-carat stone, each from a different pipe at Yakutia in Siberia.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Lucara gets $63 million for record rough diamond, expects even more next month

May 9th, 2016

by Greg Klein | May 9, 2016

The 812.77-carat sale had Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC bragging about “the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond, breaking all records”—and the company has an even bigger stone going to auction next month. Lucara got $63.11 million, or $77,649 per carat, for the newly named Constellation, one of last November’s big finds from the Karowe mine in Botswana. The company retains a 10% interest in Constellation’s cut-and-polished profits.

Lucara gets $63 million for record rough diamond, hopes for even more next month

Sorters scrutinize some of the smaller
stones from Lucara’s Botswana operation.

Lucara’s record-breaking recovery, just days before Constellation, was the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, from which Sotheby’s hopes to raise more than $70 million in London next month. As a gem-quality rough it ranks second in size only to the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan stone found in South Africa in 1905.

Cullinan was cut into nine polished gems, eight of them set into Britain’s Crown jewels. The ninth, the 530.2-carat Great Star of Africa, now resides in Queen Elizabeth II’s sceptre. It’s considered the world’s largest top-quality polished diamond but, Sotheby’s says, might lose that distinction to Lesedi La Rona.

But for that to happen, “a full complement of truly diamantine nerves will be required,” the auctioneer points out. “For while the art and craft of diamond-cutting—a meditative skill often passed down through generations—has radically improved since the Cullinan was cut, it is still through man’s ingenuity that the full beauty and light of a gem is revealed.”

Constellation bagged considerably more than the extraordinary cut-and-polished sales of recent months, including the $48.4-million Blue Moon of Josephine.

At a special tender of Karowe rough last month, Lucara flogged 10 diamonds totalling 1,525 carats for $51.3 million.

Last year Lucara attributed its historic finds partly to Karowe’s new XRT recovery circuit. The company planned to spend $15 million to $18 million to integrate an additional recovery process for exceptionally large gems.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Rapaport wants rough diamond prices slashed, De Beers CEO axed

November 26th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 26, 2015

Saying rough prices must fall by 30% to 50%, a leading industry commentator has called on De Beers head Philippe Mellier to resign. “The rough diamond distribution system is collapsing as De Beers and other mining companies attempt to force unsustainable artificially high rough diamond prices on the diamond trade,” Martin Rapaport said in a November 24 statement.

Rapaport wants rough diamond prices slashed, De Beers CEO axed

Martin Rapaport

“Rough prices are higher than polished prices, which have come down to realistic levels due to the downturn in the global economy. The mining company’s refusal to lower rough prices is destroying the diamond trade, creating severe financial losses, illiquidity, supply shortages and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs…. Without a viable, profitable and sustainable diamond trade distributing their diamonds, De Beers diamond mines are worthless.”

Rapaport is chairperson of the Rapaport Group, described as “an international network of companies providing added value services.” The press release appeared on his news website, along with an article called Rough Bubble Bust.

Rapaport called on those working in the industry to contact Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani. “De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier’s brand of trade exploitation and cannibalization is no longer tolerable,” Rapaport charged. “It is time for Mellier to go.” Anglo owns 85% of De Beers, with the government of Botswana holding the rest.

A November 26 Rapaport News article predicted De Beers’ revenue will fall about 44% in 2015.

In a report released earlier this month, diamond analyst Paul Zimnisky said De Beers reduced its 2015 production plan by 12% with cutbacks in Botswana and South Africa. Although the company dropped rough prices around 10% at an August sight, prices remained unchanged at an October sale.

“Some buyers responded by rejecting up to half of their parcels offered, an indication that additional price cuts are probably still necessary in the current environment for some mid-stream clients to remain economically viable,” he stated. “Anecdotes suggest that in some cases it is still cheaper to buy polished on the open market than it is to buy rough directly and cut into polished.”

In a recent interview with Mining Weekly Online, Zimnisky said Canadian diamond mines are less likely to be affected by the downturn.