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Sparkling prospect: Stellar Diamonds eyes big boost to resource base

The 67% spike in Stellar Diamonds’ share price in the year to date has alerted investors to its presence. However, its current market value almost certainly fails to recognise the explorer’s huge potential. 
Sparkling prospect: Stellar Diamonds eyes big boost to resource base

The 67% spike in Stellar Diamonds’ (LON:STEL) share price in the year to date has alerted investors to its presence. 

However, its current market value almost certainly fails to recognise the explorer’s huge potential. 

The plan for the current year is simple: produce a definitive feasibility study for the Tongo Project in Sierra Leone, while compiling a maiden resource for Baoule in Guinea.

In doing this it hopes to boost its resource base to 7.5mlm carats, which at current diamond prices adds up to a contained value of just over US$1bn. 

If it hits those milestones then expect a re-rating of the stock, although you could see a decent bump if the company can resolve its long-running wrangle over the ownership of the Kono Project in Sierra Leone. 

Stellar chief executive Karl Smithson told Proactive Investors: “If we do get that back people will look at Sierra Leone and us a little bit differently in politically de-risking our assets. And of course we will have this great project [Kono] back as well.”

However, the predictable news flow will come from Tongo and the exploration work on Baoule.

Tongo is the most advanced of the portfolio and, according to Smithson, geologically de-risked after bulk sampling programme that has helped compile a 1.1mln carat resource.

A second bulk sample is underway to support the definitive feasibility study due out later this year with the aim of recovering a minimum of 1,000 carats. 

Previous results established a grade of 120 carats per hundred tonnes at US$248 per carat; 86% of the stones were of gem quality.

Eye-catching also are the costs for developing the project, which, at US$16mln over two years, are cheap for any mining project, particularly an underground development.

It is also worth pointing out that the current resource has been compiled from the first of four kimberlite dykes.

Samples have been taken from dykes two and three, which indicate potential grades of 140 and 185 carats per hundred tonnes respectively. 

A larger bulk sample on Dyke-Four points to a grade of around 110 carats per hundred tonnes and a value of US$140 a carat.

Last year’s scoping study underlined the potential of Dyke-One as it pointed to life of mine cash flows of US$169mln, although this is based on recovering just 638,000 carats from the potential 1.05mln.

If we take the higher figure, then cash flows rise to US$412mln, the net present value is US$53.1mln and the internal rate of return of is 32%.

Of course there will be more granularity on the economics when the DFS is published in the second half of the year.

Key to increasing the resource estimate will be the development of Baoule, a large diamondiferous pipe in the Aredor region of Guinea, a renowned diamond district.

There is a wealth of information on the alluvial diamonds from the area, which, at US$400 a carat, are of the very highest quality.

The suspicion is that the Baoulé kimberlite may be one of the sources for these stones.

The project was explored in the early to mid noughties by Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) and bulk sampling was carried out by  the Trivalence Mining Corp, which means there is plenty of historic data, which Stellar has access to.

Stellar is targeting an initial 22mln-tonne resource that could be mined as an open pit down to 300 metres. 

The estimated grade is 13-40 carats per hundred tonnes though even at that lower figure, this gives a resource of 3mln carats. 

The value of the stones is put very conservatively at US$200 a carat, although the quality of the alluvial diamonds found in the area suggests this number might rise.

The group will earn 75% of Baoule by spending US$5mln, which will be a combination of cash and assets moved into the joint-venture company.

The plan would be to move equipment currently at the company’s Droujba project 60 kilometres away, which would allow Stellar to begin bulk sampling.

This and the planned 10,000 metre drill programme would allow the group to compile a maiden resource for Baoulé by the year-end targeting 3mln carats.

Smithson said: “This is a different beast to Tongo – it is going to be a large open-pit.” 

As well as Tongo, Baoulé and Kono, the group owns the3 million carat Droujb project, a kimberlite pipe, and Mandala, an alluvial discovery. Both are in Guinea and both could restart production when the prices of rough diamonds improve.

Currently the resource base stands at just under 4mln carats. Mentioned earlier, the group is targeting an initial resource of 3mln carats for Baoule, which, with an additional 500,000 carats for Tongo would give a total of just under 7.5mln carats, or a contained value of US$1.1bn.  

“We have kept our heads down for the last couple of years,” Smithson says of the work it has taken to get to this stage. 

“Like most junior resource stocks we have taken a bit of a beating over the last few years. But we now see a general improvement in sentiment towards the small-caps and diamond companies in particular, particularly those with production or near production assets like Stellar.”

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