Estimation of commercial diamond grades based on microdiamonds: a case study of the Koidu diamond mine, Sierra Leone
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This paper documents the application of a microdiamond-based approach to the estimation of diamond grade in the Pipe 1 kimberlite at the Koidu mine in Sierra Leone. A geological model of Pipe 1 was constructed to represent the distribution and volume of the dominant kimberlite units within the pipe. Bulk samples, along with representative microdiamond samples, were collected from these units at surface and were used to define the ratio between microdiamond stone frequency (+212 μm stones per kilogram) and recoverable macrodiamond grade (+1.2 mm carats per tonne; 1 carat = 0.2 g). These ratios were applied to a comprehensive, spatially representative microdiamond sample dataset and were combined with a spatial model of country-rock xenolith dilution within the pipe to estimate +1.2 mm recoverable grades. The resource estimate was reconciled with subsequent production results in the elevation range 160 to 100 m above sea level. Production results for each of the six 10 m benches covering this elevation range were compared to the estimated average grades for these zones in the pipe. For the five cases where most of the kimberlite mass on a given bench is represented in the production data, the results show a maximum discrepancy of 6% between predicted and reported production grade with no indication of any consistent bias. This indicates that, when supported by a sound geological model and suitable microdiamond and macrodiamond data, the microdiamond-based estimation approach can provide reliable constraints on macrodiamond grade, even in the case of geologically complex bodies such as Koidu Pipe 1.
KeywordsMicrodiamonds Resource estimation Kimberlite geology Size frequency distribution (SFD) Diamond grade estimation
The authors would like to acknowledge Koidu Limited, for supporting the application of a microdiamond-based estimation approach and for providing permission for the public presentation and documentation thereof. Two anonymous reviewers as well as the Guest Editor Alan Kobussen are thanked for thoughtful reviews and suggestions that we believe have substantially improved this contribution.
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