JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Aim-listed diamond mining and exploration company Firestone Diamonds CEO Tim Wilkes on Monday reported “encouraging” progress at its Liqhobong mine pilot plant, after overcoming technical and weather challenges.
“Good progress was made in improving the quality and value of diamonds recovered at the Lesotho-based mine following plant shutdown in July. The change in the amount of whiter stones recovered is also encouraging, which should continue on an upward trend as the mine plan calls for more of the higher-grade, larger stone-bearing areas of the pit to be mined during the remainder of the year,” Wilkes said.
The pilot plant at Liqhobong was shut down for 14 shifts in July to be fitted with equipment necessary to reduce diamond breakage of the larger stones.
Firestone had previously recovered fragments of what appears to be five stones of over 100 ct each. Firestone Diamonds said the retrofitting was successful although returning the plant to steady-state production took longer than anticipated.
The situation was further exacerbated by the extreme cold weather and heavy snowfalls experienced in Lesotho during August, which further delayed progress. As a result, the plant only returned to steady-state conditions during mid-September, whereafter the company saw a marked increase in the recovery of higher quality white and undamaged stones with the higher run rate continuing into early October.
Firestone Diamonds recovered three yellow stones weighing 27 ct, 17 ct and 15 ct and three white stones weighing 12.4 ct, 9.2 ct and 9.1 ct during the last quarter. “Further improvements are expected in the short term as the K5 higher grade rock is exposed and processed,” Wilkes said in a statement.
Firestone also expects the definitive feasibility study for the main treatment plant at Liqhobong to be completed by the end of this month.