William Lamb


BC Business Magazine - - To Do -

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.


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