In its quarterly update on commissioning activities at its Liqhobong Diamond Mine (owned 75% by Firestone and 25% by the Government of Lesotho) for the quarter ended June 2017 (Q4), Firestone Diamonds says it completed its commissioning activities and reached full nameplate targets for all three months of the quarter. In Q4, Firestone treated 925,000 tons treated (Q3: 639,000 tons), bringing the total for the financial year to 1,966,000 tons, at the upper end of guidance range of 1,800,000 to 2,000,000 tons. The recovered 204,000 carats at a grade of 22 carats per hundred tons (cpht) (Q3: 103,000 carats at a grade of 16.1 cpht), bringing their total carats recovered for FY 2017 to 365,000 at an average grade of 18.6 cpht, ahead of guidance (360,000 carats).
They also recovered 54 'special' stones (+10.8 carats) as well as the continued recovery of fancy yellow diamonds (Q3: 31 special stones), with a total of 112 special stones recovered during the financial year. Two diamond sales held during the quarter in Antwerp saw 182,786 carats sold, generating total sale proceeds of US$14.1 million, achieving an average price of US$77 per carat, due to different sales mix compared to previous quarter. Diamond sales for the financial year saw 310,376 carats sold, generating total sale proceeds of US$27.8 million, achieving an average price of US$90 per carat. "It is important to note", they write, "that the tons treated to date, and therefore the grade and value, are not yet representative of Liqhobong's true production profile. This will only start to become evident as more representative volumes of all ore facies are treated and the characteristics of the ore body becomes more fully understood."
Accordingly, as mining operations at Liqhobong advance and cuts and benches are established to follow the detailed mine plan, the company's ability to access more areas of the pit increases; they started moving into higher grade ore during the quarter. The ability to further access higher grade areas of the pit will continue to increase over the coming months as the infrastructure for cut one is established. Stuart Brown, Chief Executive Officer, commented: "I am delighted to report that Firestone has finished its financial year with another extremely strong quarter. The commissioning and ramp up process at Liqhobong has been very successful, particularly in terms of mining and treatment and to have achieved commercial production within eight months of start-up is an exceptional record. I am exceedingly proud of the team's performance and in particular the safety record, which we continue to strive to protect. I look forward to reporting on the next financial year where Firestone expects to realise its vision of becoming a mid-tier diamond producer." The miner further notes continued strong operating cost management resulting in US$11.3 per ton treated for the quarter and US$11.6 per ton treated for the year, slightly below bottom end of guidance.