Canadian Diamond Exploration Companies Have Reason for Optimism
Diamonds are associated with fine jewelry, but they are also the hardest natural minerals on earth. This property makes them highly prized for industrial cutting and polishing functions. Approximately 26,000 kilograms of them are mined worldwide annually. Whether they are found in Africa, Australia or in Canada, all of the world’s diamonds were born in exactly the same fashion.
How Diamonds were Formed
The circumstances leading up to the birth of the stones we call diamonds started about 3.2 billion years ago. At that time continents were forming on the Earth’s surface. Hundreds of kilometers below the surface, however, conditions were quite different. At pressures 50,000 times higher than the surface atmospheric conditions and temperatures reaching up to 1,300°C, new crystals with a lattice structure began to take shape.
The diamonds were formed in molten rock found between 125-200 kilometres below the surface. Some of the rarer stones originated at levels up to 400 kilometers down. When volcanic eruptions pushed magma up through the earth’s mantle toward the surface, the process was too rapid for the diamond’s crystal structure to degrade into graphite. As the volcanoes cooled over time, the diamonds remained locked inside immense cones of kimberlite (solid magma).
Diamond Exploration and Drilling
Kimberlites are relatively small (they generally have a surface area of less than 12 hectares), making them challenging to find. Their molten rock picks up other minerals along with diamonds. These kimberlitic indicator minerals rise to the surface and provide clues to the presence of diamonds.
Once kimberlite is located, tons of rock is collected from the top of the pipe and processed. Extracting this material to look for diamonds from the ground is not an easy process, since kimberlite tends to wear down more quickly than most of the rock surrounding it. As a result this creates depressions over the kimberlite pipes. The pipes fill up with water and glacial debris, which makes it difficult to get to the kimberlite.
If kimberlite is located, however, further diamond drilling and analysis must be conducted to learn about the extent of the deposit and its diamond content.
Diamond Mining in Canada
Canada is the fourth-largest diamond producer in the world. The country has active mines in the Northwest Territories and in Northern Ontario.
- The Diavik Mine is located about 190 miles north of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. Rio Tinto owns a 60 percent interest in, and operates the mine, which produces between six and seven million carats of large, “Gem-quality” diamonds annually. Harry Winston Diamond Mines owns the other 40 percent of the operation.
- The Ekati Mine has the distinction of being Canada’s first surface and underground mine. It is located in the Northwest Territories’ Lac de Gras region, about 300 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife. The mine has a reputation for producing high-quality gem diamonds. Its total cumulative production to January 2016 was approximately 63 million carats.
- The Victor Mine is located in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario, approximately 90 kilometers from the community of Attawapiskat First Nation. This open pit mine is Ontario’s first diamond mine and produces 600,000 carats annually.
- Gahcho Kué is situated 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories and is Canada’s newest mine. One of the 10 largest mines in the world, it is expected to produce 4.5 million carats annually.
Canadian Diamond Exploration and Development
Currently, Canadian exploration companies are actively pursuing several projects. In January 2017, Kennady Diamonds announced diamond recovery results of 2.18 carats per tonne of kimberlite from its Kennady North Project in the Northwest Territories. The property is situated immediately adjacent to the Gahcho Kué mine.
DeBeers Canada announced that it will continue its search for diamonds in northern Saskatchewan in the fall of 2016. The company is involved in exploring a site north of the decommissioned Cluff Lake uranium mine. It optioned the site in May 2016 and can invest up to $20.4 million in four stages over a seven-year period. If the company completes all of the stages, it could earn a 90 percent stake in the property. The next step is to drill for targets on the 43,000-acre Northwest Athabasca Project site. The drill team is expected to work through the fall and winter months collecting samples.
Buddy Doyle (VP Exploration, Director at Arctic Star Exploration (ADD:tsxv) has 25 years experience in mineral exploration. He worked for Rio Tinto PLC for over 23 years, most recently he was Exploration Manager/Vice President of Kennecott Canada Exploration Inc. (owned by Rio Tinto), in charge of diamond exploration in North America. He was a key member of the Kennecott Exploration Australia team that discovered the multi-million ounce Minifie gold deposits at Lihir in 1987-1988 and led the team which discovered the Diavik diamond deposits in 1994-1995. Few geologists have seen 2 projects from discovery through to decision to mine. Arctic Star’s Diagras Property might prove to be his next world class discovery.
From Arctic Star’s website, “The Diagras Property consists of 23 contiguous claims staked by Arctic Star, with an area of 18,699 hectares. The property is in joint venture with Margaret Lake Diamonds whereby Margaret Lake has earned a 60% interest. The property is located in the north-eastern part of the prolific Lac de Gras kimberlite field, 22km NNE of the Diavik diamond mine and 36km east of the Ekati diamond mine in NWT Canada. The Company has verified through research and compilation that the property hosts over a dozen kimberlites, most of them diamondiferous. Arctic Star’s research and compilation of historical data in the public domain confirms that Diagras is a property of merit that deserves additional exploration.” For more information, click here