PRESIDENT AND CEO, LUCARA DIAMOND CORP.
On a Sunday in October 2009, William Lamb got a text message from a friend in South Africa: “Do you have $42 million—because you may need it by the end of the week.”
“I knew straight away what it was for,” says the head of Lucara Diamond Corp. in his mile-a-minute South African lilt, recounting how he heard the tip that De Beers Group of Companies, his alma mater, planned to divest from a diamond project in Botswana. In the days that followed, Lamb and his Vancouver-based company’s chair, mining magnate Lukas Lundin, laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most successful new diamond mines of this decade, responsible for the second- and sixth-largest diamonds ever recovered.
A native of Johannesburg, Lamb began his career in mining at age 17 while studying plant metallurgy at what is now Johannesburg University. In his early years at Rand Mines in South Africa, he cycled through a diverse array of commodities—first coal, then gold, chrome, platinum and finally diamonds.
Lamb eventually found himself at diamond giant De Beers, which sent him to Canada in 2002 to work as a process plant manager at the Victor Diamond Mine in northern Ontario. In 2008, the team of investors behind Lucara approached him. They were looking for a diamond project, and Lamb set to work. Lucara had an option to earn a 51 per cent stake on a project in Lesotho, but not much more than that. In mid-2009, Lamb caught wind that De Beers was looking to divest its stake in a prospect in Botswana, so he hustled to get in on the project.
It was by no means plain sailing from there. Lamb credits Lucara’s ability to navigate the pitfalls of turning a discovery into an operating diamond mine to his team’s creative thinking— an ethos he follows himself. “You have to look what they’re doing in pharmaceuticals, in food technology,” he says of mining processes that the company has pioneered. “People will often just say that it’s never been done before in the industry, but that’s not how we’ve approached it.” —J.P.