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Letšeng ramps up production in 2016

by Lesotho Times
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LETŠENG Diamonds Chairman Clifford Elphick

LETŠENG Diamonds Chairman Clifford Elphick

Bereng Mpaki

LETŠENG Diamonds increased production in the first half of 2016 (H1 2016) compared to the same period in 2105.

According to a half-year report published yesterday by Gem Diamonds — which owns 70 percent of Letšeng Mine with the rest owned by the government of Lesotho — the mine recovered 57 380 carats in the first half of 2016 compared to 50 019 carats in 2015 during the same period. The report also reveals an exceptional Type II 160.2 carat diamond was recovered and a 11.8 carat pink diamond which was sold for US$187 700 per carat.

Added to that, two exceptional 104 carat and 85 carat diamonds were also recovered by the mine last month.

The report notes 15.3 million tonnes of waste were mined during the period under review which was up by 35 percent from H1 2015. The quantity of ore treated was 3.3 million tonnes compared to 3.1 million tonnes in H1 2015.

The report attributes the improved performance to the upgrading of a plant that allowed for increased output.

“Letšeng benefited from the Plant 2 Phase 1 upgrade project completed in 2015, realising an increased daily treatment rate through this plant.”

Gem Diamonds Chief Executive Officer Clifford Elphick states in the report the upgrade improved the mine’s operational performance.

“It is encouraging to see that the capital projects implemented at Letšeng are bearing fruit, with a notable increase in tonnes treated and carats recovered compared to prior periods,” he says.

Letšeng’s sales of US$106.2 million were a slight drop from those achieved in H1 2015 of US$106.3 million.

“During the first half of 2016, four Letšeng tenders were held with 55 948 carats sold for a total value of US$106.2 million achieving an average of US$1 899 per carat.

“Through its multiple marketing channels, a 160.2 carat Type II diamond recovered during the Period was sold into a partnership arrangement, while an 11.8 carat pink diamond achieved US$187 700 per carat on tender.”

The report shows Letšeng achieved an average of US$1 899 per carat during the period, which was 16 percent lower than that achieved in H1 2015 of US$2 264.

“During the period, Letšeng continued to implement the optimized life of mine plan, which significantly enhances the mine’s net present value through optimising waste stripping and increasing the percentage of the higher-grade, higher-value Satellite pipe ore available to be treated earlier over the life of mine,” states the report.

“The group will continue to pursue its broader strategy to identify and implement low capital, value enhancing opportunities at Letšeng, and feasibility studies have commenced to progress the next phase of plant enhancements.”

The mine also reported zero major or significant stakeholder and environmental incidents, although there was one lost time injury incident during the period under review.

Letšeng also opened Letšeng Diamond Discovery Centre during the period under review: “On 6 May 2016, the Letšeng Diamond Discovery Centre was officially opened by His Majesty King Letsie III. This centre is a permanent interactive exhibition that tells the story of Lesotho’s diamond industry, with specific focus on the history of diamond mining at Letšeng.

“The centre was built to promote knowledge and serve as a foundation for Basotho learners who wish to learn more about the diamond mining industry and possibly pursue careers in the field. This further emphasises Letšeng’s commitment to the development of the mining industry within Lesotho.”

Mr Elphick says the recent heavy snowfall in the country’s highland regions had also affected Letšeng’s operations.

“In late July, some of the heaviest snowfalls in the past decade were experienced at Letšeng. Waste tonnes mined and carats recovered will remain within original guidance but tonnes treated will reduce to 6.6 – 6.8 million tonnes from 6.8 – 7.0 million tonnes,” he says.

“Letšeng provided accommodation and food to approximately 250 local people who were experiencing life-threatening conditions during the severe weather. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mothetjoa Metsing) and a government delegation which visited the mine thanked management for its assistance to the community.”

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