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Production resumes at Liqhobong Mine

by Lesotho Times

Herbert Moyo

LIQHOBONG Mine has resumed operations which were suspended early last month due to loss of transmission from the ’Muela Hydropower Station and the power interruptions on the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) power line from South Africa’s ESKOM.

Last week the mine’s majority shareholder, Firestone Diamonds, reported that they realised US$10, 6 million from the sale of 168 612 carats worth of diamonds in the first quarter of its 2019/2020 financial year which ended on 30 September 2019.

Firestone said the figure represented a substantial decrease from the US$12, 7 million realised from the sale of 177 521 carats in the fourth quarter of the 2018/18 financial year.

The company also bemoaned the power interruption that has affected operations since 1 October 2019, saying this was expected to result in the loss of a month’s production.

Firestone Diamonds is a United Kingdom-based company, which trades on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). It has 75 percent shares in the Liqhobong Mine and the remaining 25 percent stake is held by the government.

Firestone began full scale commercial production at Liqhobong on 1 July 2017 and its largest find to date is a 134-carat light yellow gem which was recovered in October 2017.

Three weeks ago, the mine reported that it was losing M2, 5 million in potential revenue daily because of power interruptions.

The company’s Acting Country Manager, ’Mamosa Matela, said voltage fluctuations which had dogged the mine since the beginning of this month had cost the mine and its employees dearly.

She said the company has been forced to temporarily send home 563 of its 643 workers as a result.

The power interruption started when the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC), started supplying the mine with electricity imported from South Africa’s ESKOM.

This after the mine’s normal supply from the ’Muela Hydropower Station in Lesotho was stopped to allow the ‘Muela station to undergo a two-month maintenance programme starting from October 2019.

A fortnight ago Firestone said plans were underway to resume operations during early November and yesterday, the company announced that production had resumed at the mine.

In a statement to the Sunday Express, Firestone said it was “pleased to announce that an alternative power supply has been implemented at its Liqhobong Diamond Mine which has facilitated the resumption of production in the absence of grid electricity supply”.

“Further to the announcement on 15 October 2019 and quarterly operations update on 23 October 2019, the company has successfully commissioned the rented diesel generators. Production resumed on 26 October 2019 and the processing plant is currently operating at between 80 and 90 percent of full capacity as the new power generation system is being optimised.

The generators are expected to be used to generate power until grid power is restored from the Muela Hydropower Station, which, according to the Lesotho Electricity Company, is scheduled to take place on 1 December 2019. Normal operating costs are expected to increase by the cost of renting the generators and of the associated diesel consumption,” Firestone said in its statement.

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