Firestone Diamonds has announced its quarterly update on commissioning activities at its Liqhobong Diamond Mine in Lesotho for the quarter ended March 2017 (Q3 of the Company's financial year): with commissioning activities largely complete and final ramp up progressing on track, during the quarter ended March 2017 the plant treated 639,000 tons (Q2: 402,000 tons), achieving nameplate production rates on numerous occasions. 103,000 carats were recovered in the quarter at a grade of 16.1 carats per hundred tons (cpht), against 58,000 carats in Q2 at a grade of 14.1 cpht. Scheduled plant commissioning modifications carried out in the quarter resulted in a higher grade of 20.1 cpht achieved for March. They note that the, "Grade is expected to continue to rise post the implemented plant modifications and the mining of higher grade ore in the main pit in the coming months."
Their recoveries included 31 special stones larger than 10.8 carats (Q2: 27 special stones), as well as the continued recovery of fancy yellow diamonds. They also recovered a 110 carat gem-quality light yellow diamond, Firestone's largest diamond to date. Their first two diamond sales held during the quarter in Antwerp saw all 127,590 carats offered for sale sold, achieving an average price of US$107 per carat for total sale proceeds of US$13.7 million. Firestone says that during the quarter, they continued to calibrate the processing plant, with the modifications implemented primarily designed to address the low carat recoveries experienced in the previous quarter. "While these modifications impacted on the volume of tons treated, and in turn carats recovered, the modifications have proven to be effective with the grade rising to 20.1 cpht at the end of March compared to an average grade of 16.1 cpht for the quarter (Q2: 14.1 cpht). In addition, the Company's diamonds are being recovered with less than 1% measured diamond damage which is extremely positive", they write.
They also state that due to the company's focus on implementing the final modifications to the plant in the quarter, they expect to finish the financial year end having recovered approximately 300,000 carats. While this is below the lower end of previous estimates, the Company is very pleased with the increasing grade and recovery rates which puts Liqhobong in a strong position ahead of processing the better quality ore in the coming months. They note continued strong operating cost management of US$12 per ton treated, which is at the bottom end of guidance, and the company made its first debt repayment of US$1.4 million made at the end of March 2017 as scheduled.