Apart from its graphite assets, Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province is also famous for its ruby endowment. Production of rubies in the province is currently dominated by a single company, Gemfields Group (previously Pallinghurst Resources), but it could be challenged in future by a new player, Fura Gems Inc, which has built up a considerable landholding in the area.
Rubies were first discovered in the Montepuez district of Cabo Delgado in 2009 and the area has since emerged as a major producer of the gemstones, accounting over half – indeed as much as 80 % by some estimates – of the world’s ruby output. In the early days of the Montepuez ruby field, all production was through artisanal operations. This started to change from 2011 when Gemfields established the Montepuez Ruby Mine (MRM). The mine, a shallow open-pit operation, has since been responsible for generating a reported US$407 million in ruby sales.
The processing plant erected by Mustang for its bulk sampling programmes forms part of its deal with Mustang/Regius.
Founded early last year and listed on the TSX-V, Fura is run by Dev Shetty, President and CEO, who was previously Chief Operating Officer of Gemfields. The company, which has a 76 % stake in the Coscuez emerald mine in Colombia, acquired its first ruby licences in Mozambique last year. More recently, it has considerably extended its presence in the country, announcing in July this year the acquisition of nine ruby assets in Mozambique from ASX-listed Mustang Resources and Regius Resources Group for a total consideration of A$15 million (approximately C$14,6 million).
Fura said at the time that it would hold the largest ruby land package in Mozambique of 1 104 km2 on completion of the acquisition (expected by the end of November this year) and that the Mozambique operations would be run by its newly formed team of gemstone experts who were previously involved with discovering and successfully building the world’s largest ruby mine (MRM) in Mozambique. Bulk sampling activities are expected to commence before the end of the year.
Dev Shetty, Fura’s President and CEO, commented: “I am pleased to announce the merger of these ruby assets with those of our existing licences in Mozambique transforming Fura into the largest ruby group by licence area in the country. Our team has in-depth experience in the Mozambique ruby sector having previously worked in Mozambique since 2011 where they were instrumental in discovering and developing what is largely considered the world’s largest ruby deposit.
“Based on our extensive work in-country, we believe these combined licences to be some of the highest quality ruby licences available in Mozambique.
“The initial ground work has already been done by Mustang and Regius, which includes significant exploration and the construction of two wash plants. Following completion of the acquisition, we plan to commence a significant bulk sampling project within these licences in the next few months with the mid-term objective of creating another world class, cash generative ruby mine to complement our iconic Coscuez emerald mine in Colombia.”
Fura intends to invest up to C$25 million (subject to operational success) over a period of three years in a programme of drilling, bulk sampling and production mining on the properties. Other initiatives that Fura intends to launch include: the reconfiguration of the existing wash plant to increase efficiencies; extension and/or consolidation, where appropriate, of certain of the ruby licences; and the implementation of grading and marketing systems via Fura’s existing marketing platform.
Since making this announcement, Fura has also entered into an agreement which will see it acquiring a further ruby prospecting licence in the Montepuez district from Azores Overseas Inc.
Among Fura’s recent appointments are Dibya Baral as Director – Technical Services, Rahul Gopal as Director – Security and Risk Control and Amit Sharma as Head – Geology for Mozambique.
Both Baral and Gopal will be based in Fura’s administrative headquarters in Dubai and will be reporting to Ashim Roy, Vice President – Operations. Baral will be responsible for Fura’s overall technical functions, including mining, geology, processing plants and other technical services, while Gopal will be responsible for the security and risk functions. Sharma will be based in Montepuez and will be reporting to the Project Manager Mozambique. He will be responsible for the exploration and mining operations of Fura’s Mozambican ruby project.
Prior to joining Fura, Baral served as General Manager for Kagem emerald mine near Kitwe in Zambia, the world’s largest supplier of emeralds and a subsidiary of Gemfields. Gopal has over 15 years of experience in the field of security and was previously Head of Security for MRM. Sharma also has a background with MRM. He and his team contributed to taking the mine from the exploration stage through to production. He has more than 15 years of experience in geology, of which eight years have been in Mozambique with MRM.