Diamond fever is streaking across the Canadian North and geologist Pamela Strand (BSc 1988) is in the thick of the action.
The world’s largest mining conglomerates have descended on Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, nailing down the prospecting rights to an unprecedented 70 million acres. And Strand, the founder and chief executive of Edmonton-based Shear Minerals Ltd., a junior exploration company listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, has scored a major coup. She enlisted global giant BHP Billiton as a well-heeled partner in the 8.5-million acre Churchill Diamond Project, which Strand’s company developed from the grassroots up.
Since joining forces in 2003, the corporate allies have been busy tracking, identifying and sampling kimberlites, carrot-shaped geological formations that can indicate the presence of rich diamond veins. Test results have been encouraging, so Strand’s team is intensifying exploration and drilling efforts in the region. “It’s not moose pasture,” says Strand with a smile. “We’re following a well-defined, systematic approach to exploration.”
Strand, 38, gained her practical knowledge working for the federal government in Yellowknife during the 1991 diamond frenzy, the biggest Canadian staking rush since the days of Klondike Kate.
Historically, diamond prospecting has attracted schemers, dreamers and motor-mouthed promoters. Although modern mining experts rely on Landsat imaging, hyperspectral sensing and dataset analysis to track down precious minerals, today’s hunt for riches is every bit as intense as it was in Klondike days. “There’s a lot of excitement but it’s also a matter of hurry up and wait,” says Strand, who admits she occasionally finds her patience stretched to the limits. “We’re really looking for a needle in a haystack. But we believe we’re very close.”