And it shaped up to be a busy week in the world of Canadian diamonds. Chuck Fipke, the Kelowna geologist who literally launched the Canadian industry with his 1991 discovery of diamonds in the Northwest Territories, sold his 10% stake in the Ekati diamond mine for $67 million. The buyer was mine operator and 80% owner Dominion Diamond (formerly Aber Resources/Harry Winston), and the purchase price included Fipke’s stakes in both the mine and in the exploratory “Buffer zone.” Ekati co-discoverer Stewart Blusson and his company, Archon Minerals, have opt-in rights on Fipke’s stakes that if exercised would moderately dilute Dominion Diamonds’ interest. Fipke’s passion for diamond and mineral exploration endures, however, as he explained to a Globe and Mail writer. “I’m an explorer, not a manager.”
Finally, Stornoway Diamonds announced a production decision this week and broke ground on its Renard diamond project in northern Quebec. Eira Thomas is a cofounder of Stornoway, which acquired Renard through a hostile takeover of Ashton Mining, but stepped down as a director and chairwoman in August 2011. Renard will be Quebec’s first diamond mine and Stornoway took the unusual step of raising the money to build the mine – almost $1 billion – itself, through a creative financing that involves debt, dilution and even the forward sale of a diamond stream.
Renard will be a lower-grade diamond mine than Ekati, Diavik or Gahcho Kue, the diamond mine being developed by Mountain Province Diamonds (49%) and De Beers (51%) in the Northwest Territories. But it’s one of the few new diamond mines coming onstream globally, as a supply pinch builds amid growing demand for the glittery gems in the United States, China, India and the Middle East.
Also providing supply of Canadian diamonds is De Beers’ Snap Lake diamond mine, which was sold to the diamond giant by Winspear Diamonds/Aber Resources. I interviewed Winspear founder Randy Turner recently about the transaction with De Beers and his latest diamond exploration vehicle, Canterra Minerals, which is raising $2 million to return to the Northwest Territories and the diamond hunt. Here’s a link to my Sun feature on Turner.