By Marc Davis
Steady as she goes.
When charting a course to financial success, this is often the best way to proceed.
At least that’s the case when you’re benefiting from better-than-expected results from what you’re already doing.
That’s certainly the case for Dunnedin Ventures Inc. (TSX-V: DVI), which has an expansive 120,000 hectare diamond exploration/development property in Nunavut.
The Vancouver-based start-up just announced diamond recovery results from a small sample of its Kahuna diamond deposit that are virtually twice as rich as had been reported by past operators.
More specifically, a 144.4-kg sample of Kahuna returned 13 commercial-sized stones (+0.85 mm) totalling 0.334 carats, for an average grade of 2.35 carats per tonne.
To put this key development in perspective, company CEO Chris Taylor comments in a news release dated February 08, 2017: “The Kahuna kimberlite is a large target with a maiden Inferred Resource of over 3 million tonnes, and potential for an additional 3.7 to 10.7 million tonnes at a range of depths...”
“...the Company is strongly encouraged by the size and grade potential of this kimberlite, and we view bulk sampling to determine diamond value as a priority.”
A drill-bit-driven bulk sample program is scheduled to get underway this year, including the collection of up to 500 tonnes of diamond-laced kimberlite rock. Some of this tonnage will also be recovered from the adjacent diamond-laced Notch and PST kimberlite-hosted diamond deposits.
This is expected to culminate in diamond valuation later this year that will allow the company to complete a preliminary economic assessment (PEA).
Getting the Glittering Goods
Over coffee in his office, Taylor says it’s Dunnedin’s goal to define a 10-million-tonne plus resource at an average grade of at least one carat per tonne at the Company’s Kahuna and Notch kimberlites. Taylor thinks this will place the company on similar footing to other Canadian diamond companies with larger market capitalizations that Dunnedin is driving towards.
Additionally, a total of 360 tonnes of bulk sampling by a past project operator demonstrated an average grade of around a carat per tonne at the Kahuna kimberlite. So, Taylor’s projections seem perfectly reasonable.
To date, an inferred resource of around 4,000,000 carats averaging over one carat per tonne has been outlined at the Kahuna kimberlite, as well as the nearby Notch kimberlite. Among the diamonds found to date are some large ones, including a reconstructed gem that weighs-in at 13.4 carats. Large diamonds like this are important to drive project economics at most producing diamond mines.
The company believes based on a review of historical drilling that a small but successful drill campaign of perhaps less than a dozen drill holes could be sufficient to more than double the existing inferred resource. (Investors should note that an inferred resource is an approximate measurement, rather than a definitive one.)
To date, most historic drilling at Kahuna only probed within 80 to 120 metres of surface. However, some deeper drill holes intersected kimberlite rock more than 200 metres vertically from surface, meaning that this diamond deposit is still “open” (continuous) at depth, and this kimberlite was still diamond-bearing.
Kahuna’s strike length (the size of the deposit’s lateral footprint) isn’t known yet either. So, this will also be examined by way of exploratory drilling.
Furthermore, neither kimberlite has been drill-tested below 200 meters, which is where plenty more diamonds may be hidden.
Conceptual models of these two emerging diamond discoveries give Dunnedin’s management reason to believe that anywhere between 4.1 million to 15.9 million additional carats may yet be unearthed, with additional carats likely from other diamond-bearing kimberlites like the PST kimberlite. PST is an additional body that was bulk sampled by Dunnedin and contained high grade, high quality diamonds, but is not yet included in the company’s resource projections.
As an aside, most kimberlites are cone-shaped with a circular surface diameter of up to one hundred meters. But Kahuna and Notch have an entirely different structure. Known as “dykes”, they’re far more angular and can be followed along surface for several kilometres.
If they become a mine, they may therefore be amenable to low-cost, open-pit mining methods and cost-effective underground mining methods that are facilitated by their upright geometry.
It’s worth noting that Canada has produced over $25 billon dollars worth of premium-grade diamonds to date. Currently, its sole four diamond mines produce some of the world’s best-quality diamonds.
A Wealth of Opportunity: 100-Plus Kimberlite Targets
Dunnedin has yet to drill-test a number of newly defined high priority kimberlite targets that may host additional diamond sources.
This is where the company’s story heats up.
Many of these targets are being picked by the famous diamond hunter, Chuck Fipke. In fact, he found Canada’s first-ever multi-billion dollar diamond deposit, which became the Ekati mine.
Known as Dia Met Minerals, Fipke’s company catapulted from mere pennies in 1991 to over $67 a share the following year after his epic discovery in the Northwest Territories (NWT).
How Did He Do It? And How Does This Benefit Dunnedin?
Fipke is a world-renowned expert in using indicator mineral geochemistry to lead him to buried diamond treasures.
In the quest for telltale trails of indicator minerals, Fipke recently coordinated the collection and processing of glacial till samples (mostly gravel and sediment) on Dunnedin’s expansive 120,000-hectare property in Nunavut. Now these samples are being carefully scrutinized at Fipke’s world-renowned laboratory, C.F. Minerals, in the B.C. city of Kelowna.
Fipke’s team are finding exactly what they’re looking for -- plenty of the most desirable kinds of indicator minerals. This is a big deal.
It’s because these tiny colourful, glassy stones are ones that co-existed with diamonds millions of years ago. In other words, they were formed under the exact same conditions that create diamonds; they also originated from the same source rock.
As was the case with the hunt for Ekati’s hidden riches, these indicator minerals have been smeared long distances down-ice by glacial action. However, Fipke has an uncanny knack for tracing these telltale minerals back to their diamondiferous source. It’s analogous to following a trail of bread crumbs back to a loaf of bread.
Fipke explains how incredibly effective this exploration methodology can be: “We honed-in on the best kimberlite pipes at Ekati using till sampling,” Fipke explains.
Now he’s set his sights on one more world-class discovery in the twilight of his career.
“It’s very possible that there’s commercial concentrations of diamonds on Dunnedin’s property,” Fipke enthuses. “The geochemistry certainly suggests this may be the case.”
All told, Dunnedin is gearing-up for a busy and very exciting exploration season. In a sense, it offers investors the best of both words.
First, there’s the prospect of outlining a significant multi-million-carat resource at the Kahuna, PST and Notch diamond deposits. This opportunity alone may prove to be a company-maker, assuming grades of between 1-2 carats remain consistent.
However, there’s still plenty of tantalizing “blue sky” opportunity in the form of other kimberlite targets that have been personally selected by Chuck Fipke for drilling.
Any of these prospects could prove to be the next Ekati diamond mine. The odds are very long. But Dunnedin does have Fipke in its corner. And that certainly boosts the company’s prospects for a fabulous discovery.
Furthermore, statistics weigh in the company’s favour, i.e. around the world, large kimberlite fields like the one at the Kahuna project ordinarily host at least one rich diamond deposit.
All told, 2017 promises to be a very good year for Dunnedin in terms of demonstrating real economic potential at its existing discoveries.
Also, if Fipke succeeds in winding down his career on a high note, then it could prove to be a banner year for Dunnedin -- one that may yet reward investors with a “home run” win.