Pattison backs Canterra, Randy Turner’s diamond explorer

by James Kwantes

Billionaire Jim Pattison’s business empire in automotive, food, forestry, packaging, media and coal terminals has made him Canada’s richest or third richest person, depending on who’s doing the counting.

Turns out part of Pattison’s fortune is also derived from Canadian diamond exploration.

Randy Turner (above) is back hunting for diamonds in NWT and he’s taking along Jim Pattison, a former Winspear investor. Photo by Jason Payne/Vancouver Sun

The Vancouver business tycoon was a 10% holder of Randy Turner’s Winspear Diamonds, which discovered the Snap Lake deposit and was sold to De Beers for $305 million in 2000. (Winspear owned 68% of Snap Lake; Gren Thomas’s Aber owned the other 32% and sold that to De Beers for $173 million a year later.)

Pattison is teaming up with Turner once again by taking a large stake in the Vancouver geologist’s latest diamond exploration vehicle, Canterra Minerals (a Diamondex successor). On July 29, Canterra announced it had closed a $2-million financing, with Pattison acquiring 14 million shares, or about 18.7% of Canterra’s outstanding shares.

For more on Turner – who more recently, in 2011, sold his Silver Quest Resources and its 25% interest in a B.C. gold project to New Gold for $131 million – check out my June 10 Vancouver Sun feature.

In a followup interview this week, the Canterra CEO described Pattison as a “great supporter” and said Canterra crews are now doing till sampling and further defining future drill targets at the company’s early-stage Northwest Territories projects. Those properties are located between Snap Lake and Gahcho Kue, the joint-venture diamond mine being built by De Beers (51%) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49%).

Canterra has narrowed down its hunt for gems with the help of a large geophysical database accumulated over 15 years of exploration in the southern Slave, where Canterra’s claim and lease holdings now total about 74,000 hectares.

On Aug. 14, Turner also brought diamond veterans Tom McCandless and Bruce Kienlen into his corner. McCandless worked with diamond pioneer Chuck Fipke before Canada’s industry existed, has extensive experience in the Slave and was chief mineralogist for Ashton Mining/Stornoway Diamonds. Kienlen has worked for BHP Billiton and Diamonds North.

Disclosure: No position in Canterra Minerals currently. Please read my disclaimer.

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