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De Beers Canada--piping hot discoveries.

Promising exploration potential by De Beers Canada in the James Bay region may push production at Ontario's first diamond mine beyond its expected 12 years of life.

Brad Wood, the superintendent of technical services for De Beers Canada, says 16 other diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes have been discovered on their Victor Project property and the company is starting a winter program of core drilling to evaluate the individual size, shape and make-up.

Some on the pipes are within three kilometres of the Victor site.

Kimberlite is a host rock for diamonds which are brought nearer to the surface by volcanic pipes. The pipes typically occur in clusters.

"We've identified most of those kimberlites that have diamonds in them. It's a matter of determining if there's economic quantities in those pipes to warrant mining."

But once the Victor mine is ramped up into production by late March 2008, the infrastructure will already be in place for further exploration. "It changes the economics quite a bit. We can focus on those other deposits more stringently"

Wood spoke about the Victor Project to members of the Sudbury Geological Discussion Group, Jan. 19.

Before building an open pit in such an extreme and remote area, there are many variables to consider including the amount of overburden on top of the kimberlite, near-surface ground water and other environmental considerations such as the development's proximity to water bodies and sensitive areas, as well as the distance from a mill.

"You have to put together quite a complex model to determine what is the grade and the value of each of those deposits that would make it economic."

The Victor mine will process 2.6 million tonnes of ore annually and 27.4 million tons over its 12-year life.

The grade will be 0.23 carats per tonne valued at $117 Cdn.

De Beers were the first explorers into that area of the James Bay Lowlands. 90 kilometres west of the coastal community of Attawapiskat, discovering the first kimberlite pipe in 1987.

Wood says it was a long process to evaluate the first kimberlite pipe which didn't appear very economic in the beginning. With ongoing work, it wasn't until 1999 when De Beers began to realize the full value of the deposit.

"The kimberlite pipes showed up quite well with traditional geophysics and we were able to stake, drill and identify them quite early in the process."

Now, Wood says, De Beers holds most of the largest kimberlites in the area.

"The challenge is to put as much money into the ground to get as much material out to recover the diamonds."

Since 1987, De Beers has spent $130 million in exploration and evaluation at Victor. The company has committed $982 million to the mine's construction which began in February 2006. About 600 jobs will be created during construction and 400 during production in the open pit, processing plant, workshops and warehouses.

In recent years, other exploration firms such as Metalex Ventures, Trigon Exploration, Superior Diamonds, and joint venture partners Spider Resources and KWG Resources have staked nearby properties for exploration and recovered diamonds.

In the Kyle Lake area, roughly 100 kilometres west of the Attawapiskat, Metalex and partner Arctic Star Diamond have recovered diamonds and processed a mini-bulk sample of kimberlite.


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Previous Article:Local mining company signs $45M deal.
Next Article:Trade Winds Ventures begins phase one of diamond drill program.

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