JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Lesotho government has permitted diamond mines to reopen from Monday, ahead of the May 5 lockdown extension, Gem Diamonds said on Friday.
Mining Weekly can report that Lesotho is authorising diamond-mining’s recommencement in the Mountain Kingdom, contingent on compliance with Covid-19 health and safety guidelines.
The small country surrounded by South Africa produces some of the world's largest diamonds from a relatively small volume of kimberlite ore and hosts mines including Gem Diamonds' Letšeng, Firestone's Liqhobong, Namakwa Diamonds' Kao and Lucapa's Mothae.
London-listed Gem Diamonds stated in a news release that, in accordance with a phased ramp-up plan that was compliant with health and safety protocols formulated by health experts for the prevention of Covid-19 disease, its Letšeng mine would reopen on April 27.
Practical supply chain and market considerations arising from the continued lockdown in Lesotho, South Africa, Belgium and other relevant jurisdictions would also be reflected in this plan.
To date, there had been no reported instances of Covid-19 positive test cases in Lesotho, at the Letšeng mine or any of its international operations.
A comprehensive Covid-19 management plan, which prioritised employee, contractor and customer safety, had been adopted and all relevant Covid-19 safety protocols would continue to be observed.
The company, headed by CEO Clifford Elphick, said it intended to continue to conduct flexible tender sale processes. After the scheduled March tender viewings of Letšeng large diamonds were cancelled owing to the travel restrictions imposed by particularly Belgium, India and Israel, a flexible tender sale process generated revenue of $18.8-million. This was in addition to the $7.8-million Letšeng small diamond quarterly tender that closed on March 18. Guidance for 2020 would be provided once further flexible tender sale processes had been completed.
Confidence has been expressed that the Letšeng operation will be able to ramp up to full production rapidly.
Gem had $16.7-million in attributable cash as at March 31, with unutilised financial facilities amounted to $43.2-million and additional facilities of $33.6-million available to the group.