Botswana Diamonds’ unit to sell 256 carats from South African project

Botswana Diamonds (LON:BOD) said Tuesday its associated firm Vutomi had received permission to sell diamonds recovered during a bulk sampling programme at the Thorny River project, in South Africa.

The 256 carats of rough diamonds to be sold by Vutomi, in which Botswana Diamonds holds a 40% interest, are expected to generate short-term cash flow to further develop the project.

Last year, Botswana completed Thorny River’s technical and economic study, which indicated potentially positive economics using the top end of the 46-74 carats per hundred tonnes grade and $120-$220 per carat value ranges.

Botswana, which was overtaken by Russia as the world’s top diamond producing country in 2014, is grappling with aging mines, as well as power and water shortages.

Still, the nation is home to some of the world’s most prolific diamond mines, including Lucara Diamond’s (TSX:LUC) Karowe operation, where the now-famous Lesedi la Rona, the second-largest gem-quality diamond to ever be found, was unearthed in 2016.

Besides diamonds, the country also produces nickel, copper, coal and iron ore.

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Bluerock Diamonds’ shares jump on record find

BlueRock Diamonds (LON: BRD) shares were up 15% on the London Stock Exchange Friday after the miner announced it had recovered its largest diamond to date, a 24.9 carat gem quality stone.  

BlueRock owns and operates the Kareevlei Diamond Mine in the Kimberley region of South Africa.  The miner’s largest diamond prior was 16.28 carats, which sold for $78,947.
 
“This record recovery of such a high-quality diamond is an exciting milestone and underpins why we are so confident about the potential of the Kareevlei mine. We have a comprehensive development plan to increase production and look forward to providing further updates as we progress,” executive chairman Mike Houston said in a media statement. 

The diamond will be put to tender, the results of which will be announced June 17, the company said.

BlueRock’s shares were priced at 11 pence on the LSE late Friday, on a day that saw trading volume at 61.9 million, mover six times the average daily trading volume is 9.5 million. The company has a £1.8 million market capitalization. 

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Diamond markets under pressure – Rapaport

Rapaport published a report stating that diamond markets are under pressure as profit margins have tightened and the trade war with China has fueled uncertainty.

The international firm revealed that the RapNet Diamond Index, known as RAPI, for 1-carat diamonds fell 0.7% in May and is down 1.7% since the beginning of the year.

RAPI is the average asking price in hundred $/carat of the 10% best-priced diamonds, for each of the top 25 quality round diamonds offered for sale on the Rapaport Diamond Trading Network.

Stones weighing 3 carats saw the most dramatic change, with a 4% drop in May and a 9.8% drop since the beginning of the year.

To try to boost sales, polished suppliers are offering technology and source verification as a value-added service

Diamonds of 0.30 carats sunk by 3.7% in May and 9.4% since the start of the year, while 0.50-carat rocks fell 1.7% last month and 2.9% year to date.

"There is good demand for 0.60- to 1.99-carat, F-J, VS2-I1 diamonds. Buyers are insisting on well-cut stones. Polished below 0.50 carats is slow due to excess supply, weak Chinese demand and tight Indian liquidity," the report reads.

According to Rapaport, this state of affairs has pushed cutters to operate at lower capacity as they try to reduce inflated inventory, while manufacturers are rejecting high-priced rough stones that have made polished production unprofitable.

"De Beers and Alrosa are carefully managing production and price levels amid this year’s slow rough demand," the document states.

In the view of the firm's chairman, Martin Rapaport, if the trade does not change its business practices and adapt to new realities, the diamond industry will suffer "extreme financial and regulatory disruption."

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Golden Share allowed to drill in the Marten Falls First Nation territory

The Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines issued 10 exploration permits to Golden Share Resources (TSXV: GSH) for drilling targets within the Ogoki project and the Kagiami project, located in the Wabassi and Albany River area of the James Bay Lowlands of Ontario.

Ogoki and Kagiami sit some 200 kilometres southwest of DeBeers' Victor diamond mine, approximately 150 kilometres south of the “Ring of Fire” region

The permits allow the Markham-based miner to make plans to drill the 14 of 15 possible kimberlite pipe targets of the Ogoki project and 1 of 3 base metal targets of Kagiami project.

As these licenses were being processed, Golden Share signed an exploration agreement with Marten Falls First Nation, in whose traditional territory the properties are located.

In detail, Ogoki is in the eastern portion of the Archean Miminiska-Fort Hope greenstone belt where it disappears beneath Paleozoic cover in the James Bay lowlands.

According to Golden Share, to date, the only documented mineral occurrences in the project area are Algoma-type iron formation deposits. "However, historic and more recent exploration by third-party exploration companies in the region indicate potential for volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits, structurally-hosted lode (orogenic) gold deposits and kimberlite hosted diamond deposits," the miner said in a media statement.

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Venezuelan ministers say Pemón tribe supports Mining Arc, NGOs disagree

The Venezuelan Ministers of Mining Ecological Development, Víctor Cano, and Indigenous Peoples, Aloha Núñez, met with 15 captains from the Pemón tribe and, according to state media, reiterated that it is illegal to carry out mining activities in national parks.

According to official outlets, the Indigenous leaders from the southeastern Gran Sabana municipality presented Cano and Núñez with complaints regarding environmental debts that have been dragged for decades and concerns regarding the boundaries of the Orinoco Mining Arc.

“The Pemón people ratified their commitment to boost the reorganization process of mining operations south of the Orinoco river and rejected the environmental debt that illegal mining has created. They also agreed on doubling efforts to protect nature,” Cano is quoted as saying.

According to the mining minister, the Orinoco Mining Arc was created to confine mining activities to a specific area and safeguard national parks and other protected areas.

His words, however, contradict a recent report by human rights group Kapé-Kapé who denounced that illegal mining is rampant in and around the controversial Mining Arc of the Orinoco River National Development Strategic Zone, which is a 111,843 square-kilometre concession area that is equivalent to 12.2% of the country’s landmass and where gold, diamond, iron ore, copper, bauxite, coltan, among other resources are allowed to be mined.

Such artisanal and unregulated operations -Kapé-Kapé reports- are polluting the Carrao river and its tributaries within the Canaima National Park, in the southern Bolívar state and which is the traditional territory of the Pemón. They are also affecting the Imataca forest reserve, the biosphere reserve of the High Orinoco, the Yapacana National Park and El Caura National Park.

Kapé-Kapé said that even though artisanal gold mining has been taking place in the Bolívar state for at least three decades, the practice is experiencing a revival due to the presence of dissident guerrilla men from Colombia, who create alliances and gangs with the miners.

“Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in the region have denounced this problem many times. They estimate that there are up to 2,000 gangmen carrying out criminal activities related to the exploitation of mineral resources in the southern part of the country,” the group said.

Protest against the Mining Arc

As the meeting between the ministers and the Pemón was being reported, activists protested in Caracas at the Supreme Justice Tribunal against the inaction related to an appeal they submitted three years ago to repeal the decree that created the Orinoco Mining Arc.

Members of the Platform Against the Mining Arc, the Observatory of Political Ecology, and the Citizen Platform in Defense of the Constitution gathered before the country’s top court to denounce that their legal request has fallen on deaf ears. This, despite the fact that in their view and in that of many other conservation organizations, the creation of the Mining Arc through decree 2248 published in the Official Gazette No. 40.855 did not take into consideration any relevant studies related to the environmental impacts of such a massive development.

“With this decree, the President unconstitutionally assumes popular sovereignty belongs to him and awards himself supra-constitutional powers by making decisions related to the fragmentation of the national territory, the creation of new authority structures, special mechanisms related to public contracts, and easier routes for imports, while at the same time setting up tax privileges for those operating in the Orinoco Mining Arc,” the activists said in a statement made public via social media.

According to the protesters, the creation of the Arc has only caused more violence in Venezuela’s southeastern states, where hundreds of Indigenous people have been killed in the past three years, where organized crime is rampant and where the “law of the strongest” prevails.

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De Beers’ Victor mine ends production

Production has officially ceased production at the first and only diamond mine in the Canadian province of Ontario– the Victor mine owned by De Beers Canada. The news comes 10 years and 10 months after the mine was officially opened in July 2008.

Mining ceased on March 5, and the recovery plant treated stockpiled material since that time. The last economic ore was processed on May 25, 2019, followed by several days of treating low grade ore and limestone to purge the plant of any remaining diamonds. The mineral processing plant will be completely shut down by the end of  June.

De Beers said it has spent $2.6 billion to build and operate the mine, of which $820 million has gone to Indigenous and local businesses in northern Ontario. In addition, it paid $110 million in royalties to the government of Ontario and another $100 million in corporate social investment and payments to communities.

During its operation, the Victor mine yielded roughly 8.1 million carats of diamonds.

The Victor mine won its share of awards – 2009 International Mine of the Year from Mining Magazine, 2010 Ontario Chamber of Commerce Large Mine of the Year and four straight John T. Ryan Awards for mine safety (nationally in 2015 and 2016, regionally in 2017 and 2018).

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

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Golden Share acquires Basking project in Ontario

Golden Share Resources (TSXV: GSH) announced that it acquired the Basking project in Ontario, Canada.

In a press release, the miner indicated that Basking, which is made up of four small non-contiguous claim blocks totaling 34 single cell mining claims, was acquired through map staking.

In detail, the project is located near the western edge of the James Bay Lowlands and approximately 100 kilometres north-northwest of the Ring of Fire nickel and chromite deposits in northern Ontario.

Two of the Basking claim blocks are centered on base metal targets and the other two are diamond and/or base metal targets

According to Golden Share, two of the Basking claim blocks are centred on base metal targets in an area of linear, northwest-trending magnetic axes immediately north of an interpreted belt of metavolcanics north of the North Kenyon fault.

"The other two claim blocks are diamond and/or base metal targets (coincident EM and magnetic anomalies) in mafic to ultramafic intrusives just south of the North Kenyon fault," the company's media statement reads. "It has an aeromagnetic signature similar to other important structural features in the Superior Province that are known to host important gold mining camps."

The Markham, Ontario-based firm said that following small confirmatory airborne or ground geophysical surveys, all four targets should be ready for drill testing.

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Lab-grown diamonds to get sustainability standard certification

Organizations behind lab-grown diamonds continue to push to conquer the market.

As miners of the precious stones are struggling across the board, particularly those unearthing cheaper and smaller gems where there is too much supply, companies producing synthetic diamonds are expanding their reach by incorporating consumer feedback into their manufacturing and commercialization processes.

According to Chris Casey, president of the New York-based Lab Grown Diamond Council or LGDC, compliance with labour and environmental standards are consumers’ top concerns when purchasing any kind of gemstones and other products. This is why his organization decided to commission third-party SCS Global Services to create a sustainability standard for the industry, which should be ready in about six months.

“Today’s younger consumers want insight into the sourcing of virtually every product they purchase. When it comes to lab-grown diamonds, they are asking retail sales associates whether they are ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘sustainable’,” Casey told MINING.com. “The challenge is that these terms are currently unsubstantiated.”

The LGDC says that research shows that over 80% of Millennials and other consumers will buy products that are independently verified for environmental and social product attributes

The executive explained that those terms are not necessarily correct when referring to any product in his field, which is said to be more carbon-intensive than the diamond mining industry. In his view, the lack of clear guidelines is one of the things that have prompted the misuse of such descriptors and, therefore, the misleading of consumers.

To avoid deceitful advertising, the US Federal Trade Commission asked the industry to remove the words ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ when marketing lab-grown stones and, in response to the warning, the LGDC saw the urgency of commissioning the guidelines.

“The development of a fully certified sustainability standard will help put an end to such incorrect assumptions and descriptions,” Casey said.

The leader of the trade organization explained that the development of the certification standards will be informed by government regulations and definitions, environmental and social responsibility conformance, and an understanding of the manufacturing process and supply chain of lab-grown diamonds. It will also incorporate input from researchers, producers, retailers and customers.

Once the guidelines are ready, members of the industry wanting to get the certification will have to go through a comprehensive assessment of the lab-grown diamond production process, compliance auditing, diamond testing, and traceability evaluation. Each phase will be looked at taking into account how it addresses environmental stewardship and climate neutrality, social responsibility, and economic viability.

“Typically, the certification process will involve documentation review, on-site inspections, physical testing, interviews, and supply chain and traceability assessment. Each producer would demonstrate conformance to all requirements of the standard before being certified,” Casey explained.

Formal roll-out is expected by the beginning of 2020, at which time producers will be eligible to apply. Those who get the certification will be able to use the Sustainably Grown Diamond label in communications to both the trade and consumer markets.

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Sandvik creates first 3D printed diamond composite

Sandvik Additive Manufacturing has created the first ever 3D printed diamond composite. The stones lack sparkle, but are perfect for a wide range of industrial uses, says the company. The advantage is that the diamond can be 3D printed in very complex shapes, unlike mined or manufactured diamonds.

Sandvik says the difference between its diamond and natural or synthetic diamonds is that its process creates a composite. It is mostly diamond, but to make it printable and dense, it needs to be cemented in a very hard matrix material while keeping the most important physical properties of pure diamond. Once printed the composite diamond needs no further machining.

The diamond composite has been tested and found to have high hardness, exceptional heat conductivity, and corrosion resistance.

Another advantage is that material waste is minimized. The diamond powder in Sandvik’s process can be extracted from the polymer in the slurry after printing and then recycled for another print job.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

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De Beers, Namibia to spend $468m in world’s first custom-built diamond searching ship

Debmarine, a 50/50 joint venture between world’s No. 1 diamond producer by value De Beers and the government of Namibia, will build a $468 million-diamond recovery ship, the world’s first custom-made vessel of such kind and the seventh in the company’s fleet.

The watercraft, slated to start operations in 2022, would add about 500,000 carat a year of production capacity to Debmarine Namibia’s output. This, Anglo American’s diamond unit De Beers said, represents an increase of about 35% on current output levels.

Vessel, slated to start operations in 2022, would add about 500,000 carat a year of production capacity to Debmarine Namibia’s output.

Anglo’s chief executive, Mark Cutifani, noted that the addition of the first-of-its-kind vessel would bring numerous benefits in terms of De Beers’ production profile by value and volume, as well as the technologies that can be deployed from the outset for greater efficiency and productivity.

The executive added the investment offered a three-year payback, a more than 25% internal rate of return and an earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margin of more than 60%.

Debmarine Namibia last ordered a new vessel in late 2017. At the time it was projected to cost $142 million and was expected to start operations in 2021.

The company operates five diamond mining vessels and one exploration and sampling one, the mv SS Nujoma. They comb the ocean floor using advanced drill technology, supported with tracking, positioning and surveying equipment.

Dredged gravel is sifted at treatment plants onboard the ships. The leftover material is returned to the ocean and recovered diamonds are securely sealed in containers, loaded into steel briefcases, and flown by helicopter to shore.

No human hands touch the diamonds during the entire production process at sea.

Worth the investment

Namibia has over 3,700 square miles of marine diamond concessions along its south-west coast, which is expected to support the industry for the next 50 years.

Debmarine has a license to operate off the coast of the African country until 2035 within a 2,316 square mile area — just under half the size of Jamaica.

The company began marine mining operations in 2002, with a haul of approximately 500,000 carats. At the time, sister company Namdeb's land operations were producing around a million carats.

But over the years the tables have turned and marine operations now account for about to 75% of total diamond production in the country, according to Namibia's Chamber of Mines.

While marine diamonds may be challenging to find, they're certainly worth the effort. According to Debmarine’s own estimates, 95% of the precious rocks recovered from the sea are of "gem quality," compared to just 40-60% of those mined inland.

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