(NEW) De Beers Commences Reconnaissance in Banda, India

De Beers Commences Reconnaissance in Banda, India
(March 7, '07, 8:58 A Jewelbiz India Report)

De Beers India Pvt Ltd has recently started ground reconnaissance in the Banda diamond prospect area covering 2,190 square kilometers in southwestern Uttar Pradesh state, India. According to a statement issued by Canada-based Pebble Creek Mining Ltd, which owns the reconnaissance permit for the area, it would also carry out an airborne magnetic survey.

The commencement of reconnaissance work follows a Consulting Services Agreement executed in late December 2006 between De Beers India and Pebble Creek. Under it, De Beers was awarded the right to an 85 per cent equity interest in a prospecting license by performing all exploration and taking the project through to a feasibility study.

If the exploration is successful and De Beers elects to continue with the project, it would have an 85 percent interest in a new company to be set up for the purpose. De Beers India would also hold the right to market any diamonds mined from Banda.

The new company would have to be set up before May 2009, when, as per Indian law, the reconnaissance permit has to be surrendered or converted to a prospecting license.

The Banda prospect is 30 kilometers northeast of the Panna district of Madhya Pradesh, the only area in India where diamond mining has been systematically carried out in recent years. Mining in Panna is done by the National Mineral Development Corporation, an Indian government concern. The diamonds at Panna occur in kimberlite pipes as well as alluvium and unconsolidated overburden.

Diamonds have been found and mined east of Panna and south of Banda. A few years ago, the Uttar Pradesh Directorate of Geology and Mining (DGM) conducted a study of the diamond potential in Banda District, digging a prospect pit where a 0.44 carat rough diamond valued at Rs.25,000 ($560) was discovered. The discovery was in an area that falls within the area covered by the reconnaissance permit.

A recent paper by Geological Survey of India geologist, Dr. T.K. Rao, suggests that the finds in the Banda area could be of a different source or provenance from the Panna bedrock pipes, and recommends an integrated exploration program in the area.

A number of companies, including many international diamond miners, have been prospecting for diamonds in different states of India over the last few years after liberalization of the mining sector. However, to date, there have been no reports of any discoveries that could be commercially viable.