Sad note on the passing of John Lee

This is a letter about John from the Sheahan Diamond newsletter by way of Mark Fedikow. Contributed by Chris Jennings first and added comment by John Blaine with help from Andy Moore:

John was the most able person with whom I ever worked. He was the general who organised everything down to the minutest detail and it is almost entirely due to John that Falconbridge carried out one of the most advanced technical and successful diamond exploration ventures ever carried out. Under John’s tutelage, and with John Gurney’s expertise, Falconbridge became world leaders in the use of kimberlite mineral chemistry as a predictor of diamondiferous, even economic, kimberlites.

John was also at the helm when we developed the use of colour charts to differentiate G10 garnets. He developed systems for recording chemical analyses to subtly differentiate epiclastic kimberlites from Kalahari and other sedimentary rocks. It was again largely due to John that we developed, over time, systems that could dissolve kimberlite (without etching glass on any nearby windows) in order to recover microdiamonds as a another predictor of size distributions of diamonds, and hence, of potential economic viability.

John we salute you as a fine fun loving man, a good cricketer, a good party man and magnificent leader of an inspired kimberlite exploration team. With a syndicate of friends in Manitoba, he may recently have recognized what might become Canada’s first ever economic diamondiferous lamproite.

We will all miss you. You were a pioneer in advanced technologies for diamond search.

Chris Jennings


John Blaine and Andy Moore:

John was part of the management team that designed probably one of the more audacious diamond exploration programmes ever carried out, which entailed helicopter sampling some 78 500 km2 of the remote sandveld of the Central Kalahari on what conventional wisdom considered to be a ridiculously coarse (13km x 13km) grid.

John was always conscious of the importance of even the most mundane aspects of exploration and, as Chief Geologist at the time, decided that the tedious picking of mineral concentrates was so important that he joined me (as junior geologist) in the examination of the heavy mineral concentrates. The programme was a spectacular technical success, ultimately resulting in the discovery of the Gope kimberlite, and three other kimberlite clusters, and a number of unexplained mineral anomalies which have regularly been reinvestigated without success.

John and Andy added more anecdotes and commentary which was appreciated but I had to define the space.