Lawsuit Attempts to Block Harry Winston Acquisition of Ekati

The man generally credited with discovering the Ekati mine has commenced legal action to block Harry Winston’s acquisition of the Canadian diamond deposit.

In November, Winston announced it would purchase Ekati from current owner BHP Billiton for $500 million. But Charles Fipke—the pioneering geologist who still retains a 10 percent interest in the mine—has commenced an action in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Winston and BHP, who he claims have disregarded his rights to the mine. The suit, which was disclosed in a Winston news release, seeks a court order blocking the sale unless BHP Billiton provides Fipke with a revised offer.

The parties have entered into an agreement that calls for the case to be resolved on an expedited basis, aiming for a final ruling before April 15. The agreement provides that, if the court rules in favor of Winston and BHP Billiton, the mine’s purchase can be completed before May 15.

Dr. Stewart Blusson and Archon Minerals Ltd., the other minority stakeholders in the mine who are also cited in the lawsuit, are not contesting the deal, the release added.

“[Winston] and BHP Billiton believe that the claim by [Fipke’s company] Fipco is entirely without merit, and intend to vigorously defend the action in order to proceed with the purchase and sale of the Ekati Mine,” said the Winston statement.

On Jan. 14, Winston announced it was selling its retail and jewelry division to Swatch, and eventually changing its name to Dominion. The company’s CEO, Bob Gannicott, later told Bloomberg Businessweek he is looking at purchasing the remainder of Diavik, another big mine in the area. His company currently owns 40 percent of that property.