LIQHOBONG Diamond Mine has recovered 263 512 carats of diamonds in the fourth quarter ending June 2018, majority shareholder Firestone Diamonds has said.
The figure is 36, 8 percent higher than what the mine achieved in the third quarter (Q3).
“The fourth quarter saw record production,” Firestone chief executive officer Paul Bosma said in a statement this week.
“We were able to access the high-grade blocks in the mine plan and thanks to excellent operational performance we were able to achieve record carat recoveries. The increased volume translated in an improved cash position at the end of the financial year.”
The mine treated an 18 percent higher tonnage of ore in the fourth quarter than the 1 025 647 tonnes in Q3. This took its full year tonnage to 3,8 million tonnes, surpassing the forecasted 3,6 million tonnes.
“As always, the average dollar per carat achieved is highly sensitive to the incidence of special stones, of which, we saw a lower incidence in this particular quarter. However, we continue to have grounds for optimism given the parts of the orebody we plan to exploit over the next 12 months.
“We recently completed a structural and geotechnical assessment of the pit and the outputs are now being used to rerun our life of mine plan. We look forward to updating the market in this respect during the first half of 2019 financial year,” Mr Bosma added.
Costs for the quarter were US$10,98 per tonne treated and US$11,91 per tonne treated in the 2017/18 financial year despite a stronger local currency for most of the year.
The mine sold 261 985 carats in Q4 compared to the 217 380 carats sold in the Q3. This earned the mine US$18,6 million (about M251 million) revenue compared to the US$17,6 million (about M237 million) in the Q3.
“The sales achieved an average value of US$71 per carat (Q3: US$81 per carat), yielding proceeds of US$18,6 million (M251 million) as compared to the previous quarter US$17,6 million (M237 million). Average diamond values were lower than the previous quarter due mainly to the recovery of a higher proportion of run of mine category goods and fewer special stones.”
Liqhobong Mine which started commercial production in July 2017, is co-owned by the United Kingdom-based Firestone Diamonds with 75 percent shareholding and the Lesotho government controlling the remainder.
During the Q4, a total of 114 stones that are over 10,8 carats were recovered. This has bettered the previous quarter which was at 93 stones.
The company said it plans to treat between 3,6 and 3,8 million tonnes of ore in the 2018/19 financial year. It projects recoveries of diamonds ranging from 820 000 and 870 000 carats. The company said it also plans to develop the mine further through the stripping of between 4,3 and 4,8 million tonnes of waste rock.
The total cash costs for the 2018/19 financial year, including waste, are expected to range between US$15 and US$16 per tonne. This will be treated based on an average Rand: US Dollar exchange rate of R12,50.
The cost to move a tonne of waste is expected to range between US$3 and US$3,50 while corporate costs are projected to remain between US$3,5 million and US$4 million.