On one of those rare February days when the market news is
upbeat, shares of Shear Minerals Ltd. ride an upward power
glide. Pamela Strand, P.Geol., the company's president, clearly
enjoys the action.
Between repeated glances at her computer screen, Ms. Strand
explains that Northern Empire Minerals Ltd. of Vancouver has
announced a significant kimberlite find in Nunavut. Since
Shear Minerals (SRM on the TSX Venture Exchange) is partnered
with Northern Empire in an unrelated play near Rankin Inlet,
on this day its shares bask in a reflected glow.
"Our play has a lot of merit as well, and in some ways
is more advanced," says Ms. Strand, founding chief executive
of Shear, an Edmonton-based diamond exploration junior.
In a game with an overabundance of motor-mouthed promoters,
she seems refreshingly miscast. Ms. Strand would rather sell
her exploration successes with good science than with slapped
backs and blown smoke.
Data and Indicators Are Positive
No, she's not the type to hype. Nevertheless, instincts sharpened
during a dozen years in the gold and diamond business - not
to mention reams of top-drawer geophysical data - have convinced
her that Shear's Rankin Inlet play is something special.
"If you had a checklist of everything you wanted on a
property for kimberlites, this has it," Ms. Strand says
of the property, known as the Churchill Diamond Project. As
the operating partner, Shear controls 51 per cent.
"We've got all the indicator minerals. And the chemistry
of those indicators is the best our people have seen outside
of Lac de Gras, plus we have found pieces of kimberlite at
two locations on our claims," she says. Lac de Gras is
the region with most of the Northwest Territories' diamond-bearing
Ms. Strand should know by late April whether Churchill is
a yes or a no. Crews were to reach Rankin Inlet toward the
end of February, with test drilling to follow by mid-to-late
The excitement is almost palpable. Modern experts may rely
on landsat imaging, hyper-spectral sensing and laptop dataset
analysis to seek precious minerals. But the hunt is every
bit as intense - and as thrilling - as it was back in the
days of Klondike Kate.
Ms. Strand caught the bug soon after completing her master
of science degree at the University of Western Ontario. She
moved to Yellowknife to work for the feds as a district geologist,
and shortly after she hit town, she found herself caught up
in the biggest staking rush in Canadian history. It was the
1991 diamond frenzy and it lit up the north. "It's just
so much fun," she says with a shrug.
"I gained my first diamond knowledge working with the
government," continues the Toronto-born scientist. "We
interacted with all the exploration companies. I learned a
lot and met all the players."
One of them was Chuck Fipke, whose discovery subsequently
led to the Etaki Mine, the first of Canada's two producing
diamond mines. Like all her counterparts, Ms. Strand would
dearly love a success as great as Chuck Fipke's.
Six years ago, a group of private backers gave her the wherewithal
to create Shear Minerals, after Ms. Strand and her husband
had moved to Edmonton. Since then the company has acquired
mineral rights to a number of properties in the territories,
as well as a million acres in Alberta - a province in which
47 kimberlites have already been identified.
Drill Tests Begin Soon
It's taken five years to put the company on a solid foundation.
And now, Ms. Strand says, Shear will drill test several properties,
on which it's make or break time. "This is fruition year.
It (diamond ore) is either there or it's not. If not, then
we continue our exploration efforts at the next priority property."
Exploration, sampling and geophysical analysis have been completed
on eight diamond projects. All are ready to drill. "We'll
start with the Churchill Diamond Project because it has the
highest potential," Ms. Strand says.
When drill crews go in, they'll be after kimberlites: rare
volcanic deposits shaped like a champagne glass and measuring
no more than 400 metres across.
"I'm hoping I can make the next big discovery,"
Ms. Strand says with a smile. "That's the most exciting
thing: thinking you have just as good a chance as anybody