Diamcor’s Krone-Endora diamond project in Limpopo has the potential to be developed into a profitable medium-sized diamond operation.TSXV-listed junior diamond developer Diamcor is well underway with the development of its Krone-Endora at Venetia diamond project which, once transitioned from small to large-scale trial mining, will be the company’s crown jewel, president and CEO Dean Taylor tells Chantelle Kotze.

Following five years of hard work at Diamcor’s KroneEndora at Venetia project; which entailed the acquisition, planning, permitting, establishment of infrastructure, and the construction of two deposit specific processing plants, the majority of development work is now complete. This has allowed the project to enter into the large-scale trial mining phase, the efforts of which will be used to aid the company in arriving at initial production decisions for the project in the near term, says Taylor.

Asset overview

The Krone-Endora at Venetia diamond project in Limpopo is located on the farms Krone 104MS and Endora 66MS covering an area of about 5 833 ha directly adjacent to the north of diamond major De Beers Consolidated Mines’ world-class Venetia diamond mine – which is widely accepted as South Africa’s largest producer of diamonds, with a high percentage of gem quality diamonds.

In September 2014, the Department of Mineral Resources granted Diamcor a 30-year mining right for the Krone-Endora at Venetia project encompassing 657.71 ha of the project’s total area. The company subsequently also submitted an application for a mining right over the remaining areas of the project, which the company expects will be granted in due course.

Diamcor’s latest inferred mineral resource estimate is 1.3 Mct, the majority of which is attributable to the initial 171 ha K1 area of the project. Once operations in the key K1 area are established, Diamcor plans to complete additional bulk sampling in the areas directly surrounding this area to determine the extent to which the deposits continue into these other areas of interest which are yet to be defined.

The 52.5 Mt Krone and Endora deposits have been identified as being from the direct shift and subsequent erosion of an estimated 1 000 vertical meters of material from the higher grounds of the Venetia kimberlite pipes onto the lower surrounding areas in which the Krone Endora at Venetia project lies, making it not only an alluvial deposit (stream deposited), but also a rare eluvial deposit (direct shift of source material).

The deposits are therefore unique in that they have not travelled great distances, as would be the case with an alluvial project. This results in the potential for higher grades to be present, with diamond qualities that mirror that of Venetia.

In addition, the deposits on KroneEndora at Venetia occur in two layers with the deposit material never being more than 15 m from surface to bedrock allowing for a very low-cost mining operation to be employed with the potential for near-term diamond production from a known highquality source. This also provides for a very attractive operational scenario with no requirement for underground operations or blasting, and a simple, open pit strip mining operation can be employed. The project is also attractive given the low operating costs associated with this type of deposit.

“What attracted Diamcor to the project was its direct association with the Venetia mine, its potential for both near-term production and cash-fl ow, as well as its ability to provide future growth from expansion into the surrounding areas of the project,” says Taylor.

“We believe the project has the potential to achieve a mine life of 15 years in the main areas of interest currently being targeted; but the results of the eff orts on the surrounding areas will ultimately determine any added potential, along with long-term diamond pricing and the supply/demand scenario for natural diamonds likely contributing as well,” he notes.

Overcoming the challenge of fine material

Due to the nature of the deposit, and specifically the high percentage of fines materials under 1 mm, the development of the project hinged on Diamcor’s ability to overcome the fine material in the deposit through the successful development of suitable processing plants.

The subsequent successful development of an in-field dry-screening plant, aimed at removing a high percentage of fine material under 1 mm in size prior to the remaining screened material being processing at a main treatment plant was a key element in the project’s further advancement, and potential future viability. In addition to reducing operational costs and overall water consumption at the project, the removal of these fine materials also reduced the overall size and processing capacity requirements of the project’s main treatment plant.

Taking Krone-Endora at Venetia forward

With a fresh start to 2017 and several years of planning and development behind the belt, Krone-Endora at Venetia has now been advanced significantly and Diamcor is very close to being able to demonstrate the long-term benefi t and value it set out to achieve for all stakeholders involved, says Taylor.

In order to set the project up for the long-term and in addition to the company’s already established in-fi eld dryscreening plant and treatment plant, Diamcor embarked on an expansion and installation of additional processing equipment at the project in the third quarter of 2016 which was aimed at supporting increased processing volumes at the project moving forward. To support the company’s process water needs, Diamcor received fi nal approval for and completed the installation of four additional water boreholes and the required pipelines for each, bringing the total number of operational boreholes/ pipelines established at the project to seven.

The company also completed the installation of a crushing circuit at the project’s in-fi eld dry-screening plan. Taylor explains that previous eff orts aimed at the development of the dry screening plant focused on achieving high volume screening to remove fi ne material under 1 mm in size without the use of water.

During these exercises the company primarily processed material in the +1 mm to -15 mm size fractions, with material in the +15 mm to -45 mm size fractions largely stockpiled. “The main objective of the new crushing circuit installed is to liberate any diamonds from the previously stockpiled highergrade lower portion of the deposit, and allow for the simultaneous treatment of all screened material from 1 mm to 45 mm at the main treatment plant,” explains Taylor. In addition to this, Diamcor also completed the installation of a significantly larger dense media separation (DMS) plant at the project’s main treatment facilities.

The upgrading of various screening components, materials handling systems, and water recovery systems was also completed, along with the establishment of a dedicated larger material circuit as part of the planned treatment of material up to 45 mm in size. As part of the expansion eff orts, a significantly larger final recovery and sorting facility was also installed at the project. The expanded final recovery facilities include the addition of four new X-ray diamond recovery units to supplement the project’s existing X-ray units, an expanded secondary recovery system, a dedicated large diamond recovery circuit, and the expansion and further automation of the project’s sorting facilities.

“The new facility expansion is expected to support not only the company’s short-term targeted increases in processing volumes of about 100% over previous capacities, but also facilitate potential expansion in future, and enhance automation and operational efficiencies for the long-term,” Taylor highlights. Work on these various objectives commenced during the third quarter of 2016, and with the majority of the items finalised by the end of the year, final testing and calibration commenced early in 2017.

Initial testing of the new facilities has demonstrated its ability to meet or exceed the company’s expectations with regard to targeted initial increases in processing volumes of up to 100% over previous processing levels, the processing of all material from 1 mm to 45 mm, and the potential for yet additional capacity and operational efficiencies in the long-term. “We are very optimistic about 2017, and our efforts are now focused on increasing processing volumes, optimising operational efficiencies for the long-term, and transitioning into large-scale trial mining exercises,” he concludes. MRA