Sparkling numbers
BHP releases Ekati production numbers

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 16/98) - Ekati's largest rough diamond so far weighs in at a hefty 47 carats.

"Large diamonds are being recovered," the company said Monday in its first public production report.

BHP did not say if the stone was gem quality.

BHP spokesperson Graham Nicholls preferred not to comment on the value of the stone which weighs just under 10 grams. Its diameter is believed to be about 25 millimetres or three-quarters of an inch.

"The value (of a diamond) can vary greatly," he said.

If the stone is industrial quality, its value per carat will be significantly lower than a gem stone.

"Production rates are gradually ramping up as fine- tuning progresses in the process plant," BHP said.

During November, 80,048 carats were produced from Ekati. October production was 27,839. The mine officially opened Oct. 14.

Average production for the first two weeks of December has been about 5,000 carats per day.

"Full production from the panda pit, at a rate of approximately 250,000 carats per month, is anticipated by March 1999."

Two shipments of rough diamonds have been delivered to BHP Diamonds Antwerp sales office.

BHP expects regular sales to begin next month.

Production statistics for Ekati will be included in the BHP production report which is issued monthly.

BHP also said the final capital cost of the project is expected to be $669.4 million, about $15 million below the authorized budget.

On exploration, BHP said it has received valuation from summer drilling at the Pigeon pipe, about five kilometres north of Ekati.

Pigeon, a land-based kimberlite pipe, sampling yielded 251.31 carats worth $83.20 per carat. Average recovery per tonne was .45 carats.

BHP also reports micro-diamond analysis has been done on kimberlite pipes discovered in the 1998 drill program.

"Three of the seven kimberlites drill confirmed in 1998 have produced significant micro-diamond results," BHP said.

As well, BHP continues to explore incorporating Koala North and Beartooth pipes into the mining plan.

During the winter months, the company will continue its exploration program. Bulk samples are planned for Gazelle and Phoenix pipes.