Firestone Diamonds has just completed its first full year of production at the Liqhobong Diamond Mine (75% Firestone, 25% Government of Lesotho), ending an "eventful" year with mixed results. The company describes their first full year of production as "characterised by exceptional operational performance", as Firestone achieved their carat recovery guidance and exceeded their tonnage treated while operating at significantly lower cost than expected, and maintained an unblemished safety record. However, the lower-than-anticpated recovery of high-value diamonds and continued low prices for the ROM category diamonds during the early part of the year resulted in lower than expected average diamond values achieved at sale, prompting a revision to the mine plan. The miner ended the year with revenue of $62.2 million and a loss of $14.2 million, the latter representing a 91% decline compared to 2017 ($151.7 million loss).
Firestone provide the following highlights of its first full year after having achieved commercial production in June 2017: the miner recovered 835,832 carats (+ 128% over 2017, 365,891 carats) with an 18% increase in grade to 22.0 carats per hundred tons (cpht). The company treated 3.8 million tons of ore at a 5% decrease in operating costs to $11.62 per ton (2017: $12.26). Firestone sold 831,637 carats (2017: 310 376 carats) at an average price of $75 per carat compared to $90 per carat last year. Firestone's largest diamond recovered to date (in September 2017) was a 134 carat gem-quality light yellow diamond, while its most valuable diamond recovered on a per-carat basis was a fancy pink diamond which realised a sales price of $112,781 per carat.
During the year, Paul Bosma was appointed as CEO effective from 1 July 2018, following the departure of Stuart Brown. He had the following to say: "The 2018 financial year was an eventful one, marking the first full year as a diamond producer at Liqhobong. Having concluded a $25.0 million fundraising at the end of December 2017 and restructuring our ABSA debt facility, we entered the second half of the financial year on a much stronger financial footing. We had an exceptional final quarter from an operational perspective, and I am pleased to say that this trend has continued into the 2019 financial year ... We continue to evaluate our life of mine plan to assess the viability of an extension." He adds, “From a market perspective, we have seen further evidence of subdued pricing for smaller, lower quality goods at the most recent diamond sales putting pressure on overall dollar per carat. However, the demand for larger, better quality stones remain strong. The overall supply-demand dynamics in the natural diamond market remain favourable in the short to medium term with no new sources of supply on the horizon and the major producers carrying minimal stock and operating close to full capacity. This bodes well for Liqhobong which is only just starting its journey.”