Rio Tinto signed a four-stage, C$75 million agreement to earn up to a 60% interest in the project over a period of 7.5 years in November 2017. The company decided to exercise its earn-in rights early, in November 2019. However, Star Diamond does not believe that the requirements to enact the JV have been completed and has taken Rio Tinto to court. The case, which also seeks damages from Rio Tinto, is not likely to be heard until next year.
The June 17 notice from Rio said it would be seeking approval for the JV budget at a management committee meeting of the joint venture on June 21. If Star is unable to fund its portion of spending, it risks having its interest in the project diluted.
As of May 11, the junior reported cash and equivalents of C$4.8 million.
A 2018 prefeasibility study of the large, low grade Star-Orion project outlined a C$1.4 billion open-pit operation with a mine life of 34 years. The project, located 60 km east of Prince Albert, is known to host larger stones, including high-value Type IIa diamonds and could produce 66 million carats over its mine life.
(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)