Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. and BHP, Chidliak Discovery Team
For the discovery of the Chidliak diamond district on Baffin Island, Nunavut
Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. discovered the first kimberlites in the Chidliak diamond district of southern Baffin Island, Nunavut in 2008. By the time De Beers Canada acquired the junior a decade later, 74 kimberlites had been discovered and a positive preliminary economic assessment (PEA) had been released showing that two of the kimberlites could support an operation producing 16.7 million carats over a 13-year mine life.
In the early 2000s, BHP Billiton focused its efforts on southern Baffin Island as a prospective area for diamond exploration. Although most age-dating information suggested that the basement geology was not ideal to host economic diamond deposits, exploration manager Geoff Woad was sceptical of the studies and felt strongly that BHP should target the region. Looking to leverage its diamond exploration spending, BHP formed a strategic alliance with Peregrine to explore Baffin Island for diamonds and metals. After conducting a jointly-funded regional sampling program in 2005, enough kimberlite indicator minerals (KIMs) were recovered to justify a follow-up program.
In 2006, Peregrine took responsibility for sole funding, operating and property acquisition, leaving BHP with certain back-in rights. After a successful 2006 follow-up program the first claims were acquired in early 2007. The field program confirmed high diamond potential on the property. Chairman Eric Friedland kept the funding taps flowing during this period, while President Brooke Clements prioritized the project over all others in the junior’s stable during the tough equity markets of 2008.
By 2008, glacial till sampling had sufficiently outlined a target area where Peregrine initiated the first airborne geophysical survey. The diligent field crew combined geophysical interpretation and prospecting to identify the first three kimberlites at Chidliak on a real-time basis. The first kimberlite yielded a two carat gem quality diamond that same year.
Encouraged by the finds in 2008, BHP exercised its back-in rights to acquire a joint-venture interest and funded exploration programs for the next three years resulting in a rapid pace of kimberlite discovery. When BHP decided to exit the diamond business in 2011, Peregrine purchased their entire 51% interest in the project for $9 million. Peregrine also purchased BHP’s 2% retained royalty.
Persistent, methodical exploration paid off and by 2016 Peregrine had discovered a total of 74 kimberlites, the majority of which are diamondiferous. Today, it is now well-established that the Chidliak kimberlite field is hosted by old Archean terrain, confirming Woad’s early suspicions about the basement geology. Peregrine was able to hone in on the most prospective of the kimberlites and included two of them in a PEA released in mid-2018. The PEA outlines an open pit mine with a capital cost of $521 million, including a $95 million access road from Iqaluit, with an after-tax NPV of $669 million and an IRR of 31.2%.
In September 2018, De Beers Canada acquired Peregrine and all of its Canadian projects in a friendly deal priced at 24 cents per share, or $107 million. De Beers is planning to apply the “FutureSmart” approach to mining at Chidliak using innovative techniques developed by its parent Anglo American to shrink mining’s footprint and lower energy costs.