Naujaat diamond exploration project aims for quality over quantity

North Arrow Minerals says it’s encouraged by the diamond samples its extracted from an exploration site nine kilometres from Naujaat, Nunavut.

North Arrow Minerals began exploring in the area in 2014 and is encouraged by high quality diamond samples

Unpolished diamond samples from the Naujaat Diamond Project. (Submitted by Nick Thomas)

North Arrow Minerals is encouraged by the diamond samples it's extracted from an exploration project nine kilometres from Naujaat, Nunavut.

The company started exploration there in 2014, and last year did a significant amount of sampling to help determine if the Naujaat diamond exploration project could become a mine.

Ken Armstrong, the company's president and CEO, says they'll know more once all the results from the sampling are in, but for the moment they're pinning their hopes on finding more of the high value orange-yellow diamonds found in previous samples.

"It's a really unique colour and it's the main thing that's keeping us interested in evaluating this project, if there's enough of those yellow diamonds and enough of them have the kind of quality of the ones that we had polished, they could really make this deposit work," Armstrong said.

Ken Armstrong (right), president and CEO of North Arrow Minerals, at the Naujaat Diamond Project site. (Submitted by Nick Thomas)

He says it's very rare that a diamond deposit is mined with the intent of pulling out fancy coloured stones — he says usually they're a happy accident — but in this case they're considering it because their value might be enough to justify the cost of a mine.

This focus on quality when it comes to this deposit is because current sampling shows the quantity of diamonds to be on the low side.

Armstrong estimates that at this site there might be 30 to 50 carats of diamonds per 100 tonnes of kimberlite. That's much lower than Peregrine's Chidliak Project near Iqaluit, which is estimating in excess of a carat and a half per tonne, but he says it's not far off the amount that the De Beers Victor Mine in Ontario is pulling out of the ground.

He says the De Beers mine in Northern Ontario has been successful because the mined stones are worth a lot.

Bagged samples of kimberlite, from which diamonds are extracted. (Submitted by Nick Thomas)

To determine if the Naujaat project has the same legs, he says the company will need to collect a much larger sample than it has in the past — around 2,000 carats.

This sampling will require new permits and between $15 million to $20 million of investment.

The final results from the 2017 samples are expected in the next eight weeks, if they continue to be promising the company will be looking at ways to find the necessary money.

Armstrong expects the next phase of sampling to take two to three years.

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