Despite the high costs involved in, and the long lead time needed for diamond exploration, they will become an increasingly rare and valuable commodity and, therefore, one worth investing in, says mining industry specialist consultancy, The MSA Group.
“We encourage companies and individuals to seek out diamond projects and investments. Although the price of exploring for and evaluating diamond prospects is relative to most other resources, the returns can be of the highest in the mining industry,” says The MSA Group MD Keith Scott.
He adds that MSA aims to guide companies involved in diamond exploration and mining by reducing the risk factors in exploration and evaluation to ensure they achieve the best “bang for their buck” possible in this “risky” enterprise. MSA’s management focuses on active networking with major and minor players in the diamond industry to win project work for MSA, from exploration to feasibility study level, and for their diamond analytical services laboratory, which caters for exploration and evaluation work.
MSA diamond analytical services laboratory head Owen Garvie tells Mining Weekly that the company’s most valuable asset is its more than 150 years of combined, specialised diamond exploration and evaluation experience.
This includes MSA’s highly trained laboratory personnel comprising dedicated minerals sorters, diamond analysts, diamond experts and consultants who have the skills and experience to process, examine and recover kimberlitic indicators and diamonds from diamond exploration samples to predict indicator minerals’ proximity to source, to examine diamond- carrying characteristics of exploration targets, and to undertake micro-diamond grade modelling on diamond-bearing deposits and producing mines.
“MSA’s rare and specialised areas of expertise have delivered significant value to our clients and have led to the discovery of a multitude of diamond deposits and even to the discovery and development of diamond mines,” says Garvie.
He adds that the group’s diamond capability statement provides clients with information about MSA’s services to the mining industry, and mentions that the company has a record of delivering solutions for a variety of global diamond exploration projects in South Africa and Africa, Canada, Russia and Europe for more than 30 years.
“Most of MSA’s personnel have been in this industry for many years and, while there are several challenges currently facing the mining sector, particularly in Africa, we are well prepared to tackle them,” he adds.
Garvie highlights Africa’s lack of infrastructure in some remote regions as one of these challenges. “A lack of infrastructure can place additional time constraints on an operation, but careful planning prepares clients for these eventualities.”
Scott adds, however, that this also highlights a significant, positive differentiator for diamond projects in remote areas, as they require relatively little infrastructure, compared with other commodity projects, like bulk commodity projects, as diamond concentrate can be removed by a helicopter.
The MSA Group Capabilities
MSA currently operates two specialised laboratories in South Africa – a heavy minerals laboratory and a micro-diamond laboratory. The MSA diamond laboratory is the only ISO/IEC 17025-accredited diamond facility in Africa and the only such independent facility in the world.
The company’s diamond exploration and evaluation business covers all aspects of the exploration and evaluation value chain. Firstly, it offers targeting and exploration services and can undertake sampling campaigns on behalf of its clients. The kimberlitic indicators recovered from the samples are analysed visually, texturally and chemically to rank and home in on the targets they are derived from.
Highly specialist surface-texture classification interprets the degree of abrasion displayed by kimberlitic indicators and distinguishes those of local origin from others that have undergone considerable transportation and are far from their original primary source. This information can significantly reduce the area of interest and save time and costs on follow-up activity.
MSA also undertakes mineral chemistry analysis of indicator minerals to determine the diamond-bearing potential of the source target.
Further, MSA offers the only micro-diamond analytical service in Africa, which is the quickest and most cost effective way to undertake macro-grade estimation with a high degree of accuracy, underpinned by MSA’s database of grade estimations.
“The geological information gained from these analyses can assist clients in successfully discovering new kimberlite occurrences. It can also provide information about their diamond content and economic potential,” says Garvie.
“The MSA Group consults with its clients on a continual basis and effectively manages projects, which add value to diamond and exploration projects, particularly in Africa,” says newly appointed laboratory manager Hilde Cronwright. Cronwright has more than 15 years of specialist geochemical experience.
As diamond specialists with vast experience in the diamond industry, MSA believes that its primary role is to de-risk the evaluation of projects by advising clients on when it is appropriate to discontinue projects of doubtful economic potential and, subsequently, when to spend their resources more wisely in another, potentially more profitable, target area.
“We direct clients using a cost-effective and structured approach to the valuation of kimberlite that has significant diamond and economic potential by reducing costs and risks at each stage of an evaluation project,” says Garvie.
Scott adds that MSA has sufficient consulting experience across several relevant disciplines – including geology, mineral resource estimation, engineering, environmental impact, and economic impact – to develop a project to the definitive feasibility stage, whereafter the client can raise capital to develop the mine.
“We routinely report on all major mining stock exchanges and are qualified to report publicly on mineral resources and reserves and to undertake mineral asset valuations according to the international codes of best practice that govern reporting in the mining sector. MSA can also support clients during the development stages and has aided clients in grade control, mineral resource management and optimisation of existing mining operations,” says Scott.
He further mentions that The MSA Group aims to report accurate results within budget and on time to meet customer requirements in a professional, responsible and safe manner and that this level of service has seen the company’s client base grow, even during the difficult times that have faced the mining industry in recent years.
“I therefore predict that the company will be able to complete a successful, productive, profitable and safe performance in 2014 and, in addition, will gain OHSAS 18001 accreditation for health and safety within the year,” he says.
Scott notes that the diamond industry is starting to attract investor interest again as economies recover from the global recession and luxury goods markets grow, especially in China. “New entrants and existing companies are becoming interested in diamond exploration again,” he says.
Cronwright adds that MSA’s laboratories have already seen a twofold increase in requests for testwork in the first quarter of 2014, compared with the whole of 2013.
“We believe that, with the right people and technology, diamond exploration and mining can be a viable and highly profitable venture,” Scott concludes.