Lucara Diamond Corp, which has recovered two of the largest diamonds in recent history, is turning to technology to ensure growth in an industry where new mine acquisitions remain elusive.
For the Vancouver-based junior miner, that means using advanced technology like sorting based on atomic density to boost value from its Karowe mine in Botswana, and also diversifying away from mining into an online diamond sales platform.
"Diamond mines are extremely rare… we haven't been able find the perfect asset, but we continue to look," Lucara Chief Executive Eira Thomas said in an interview. "In the meantime, we thought it was important to establish a growth agenda."
X-Ray transmission (XRT), which Lucara began using in 2015, enabled record diamond recoveries last year, including 33 stones over 100 carats
While bigger companies like Anglo American's De Beers AK Alrosa PAO invest in advanced technologies, Lucara is "by far the industry leader" among the remaining smaller miners, said independent analyst Paul Zimnisky.
"Lucara has one depreciating and depleting asset, so they do need to look long term," Zimnisky said. "They're carving out a unique niche for themselves."
X-Ray transmission (XRT), which Lucara began using in 2015, enabled record diamond recoveries last year, including 33 stones over 100 carats.
It measures ore's atomic density to identify diamonds early, allowing recoveries of larger stones, while traditional mining requires multiple crushing and concentration stages.
"Previously, we could see the diamonds were broken… but we had no idea what the value loss associated with that was," Thomas said. "Did we break a 50-carat diamond or a bunch of 10-carat diamonds? We really couldn't tell."
When Lucara began production at Karowe in 2012,it estimated the diamonds would be worth $200 to $250 a carat, Thomas...