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Explorers striking out

THE END of the wet in the Kimberley region has signalled the start of a most significant phase in the resurgence of diamond exploration in WA’s far north.

During the next six months, major diamond explorers, including junior Striker Resources NL and Rio Tinto, will spend a minimum of $10 million on the biggest exploration burst the region has seen in recent times.

Striker is planning to spend approximately $6 million, most of it on pre-feasibility bulk sampling of kimberlite diamond pipes discovered at Ashmore. This will take Striker’s investment in the north Kimberley to $20 million over eight years.

Adjacent to Ashmore, Rio Tinto Exploration plans to spend $2.5 million on Striker ground at Beta Creek on behalf of the Ashton exploration joint venture.

Recent announcements by Rio Tinto of two new kimberlite discoveries at Beta Creek confirmed the region’s prospectivity.

Rio Tinto Exploration is in the second year of a three year program at Beta Creek where it plans to spend $10 million to earn an 85 per cent interest.

“The backdrop to all this activity in the Kimberley is the increased demand for diamonds stemming from improved world economies which has sparked significant price increases over the past year,” Striker managing director Clayton Dodd said.

“The diamond industry has never been so bullish.

“With demand for diamonds outstripping supply, the hunt for new diamond mines is on and we expect the Kimberley to become a major focus of world exploration.

“A major factor is that Australia is a relatively safe haven for those investors committed to the more traditional diamond areas and the low exchange rate makes investment even more attractive.”

Mr Dodd said the world diamond industry was closely watching what was happening in the Kimberley. Activity in the region was discussed recently at the World Diamond Conference in Toronto, Canada.

“Over the past year Striker has generated enormous interest by finding quality stones up to 10 carats in size, with 50 per cent classified as gem quality,” he said.

“We are delighted with the latest independent valuation of our Ashmore diamonds by Michael Farrer, WA’s diamond valuer.”

Despite size limitations of the trial mining plant used at Ashmore 2 last season, Striker will increase recoveries in 2000 with delivery in July from South Africa of a new heavy media plant to quadruple throughput to 40 tonnes/hour and increase screen size from 10 millimetres to 25mm, allowing for recovery of stones up to 50 carats plus.

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