Gemstone miner Gemfields on March 1 confirmed that its 75%-owned Kagem Mining emerald mine in Zambia, as well as its 75%-owned Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM) ruby mine, in Mozambique, are set to restart production in a phased manner during March.
Mining operations are expected to ramp up to full scale by the end of April.
Kagem Mining last week reported that it would soon start a phased ramp-up in operations.
It is expected that MRM’s treatment plant and sorting house – which have already restarted – will reach full capacity by the end of March, while the washing plant at Kagem is projected to restart in mid-March.
As a result of the assorted cash saving measures implemented by the group in response to the impact of Covid-19, all but critical operations at Kagem and MRM were suspended since March 30, 2020, and April 22, 2020, respectively.
Gemfields’ typical schedule includes five to six auctions a year – two of mixed-quality rubies and three to four of emeralds (split between higher quality and commercial quality).
Gemfields’ 2020 auction schedule was severely impacted by the many travel, quarantine and congregating restrictions put in place internationally to mitigate Covid-19 contagion.
The pandemic has meant that no traditional Gemfields auctions have been held since February 2020, when $11.5-million was realised from the sale of commercial quality emeralds in Lusaka.
The company subsequently conducted a series of sequential emerald mini-auctions, with bids placed online after multi-city, in-person viewings of the gemstones by customers in November and December 2020, generating revenues of $10.9-million.
In 2020 therefore, aggregate auction revenues were $22.4-million, a fall of $178.3-million (or about 89%) when compared with 2019. There was no ruby revenue in 2020.
Owing to the widespread ongoing restrictions arising from the pandemic, Gemfields will continue with its interim auction model in the near term in respect of both emeralds and rubies.
Auctions of emeralds and rubies, using this model, are scheduled to start on March 15. The series of seven ruby auctions is expected to be completed on April 8 and the series of five emerald auctions is expected to be completed on April 17.
Subject to Covid-19 developments, the company is hopeful that it will be able to return to a more regular auction format during the fourth quarter of this year.