Lucapa Diamond Company has commenced its commissioning of the 1.1Mtpa (million tonne per annum) treatment plant at the high-quality Mothae kimberlite open-pit diamond mine in Lesotho (Lucapa 70%; Gov't of Lesotho 30%), despite the challenges of the winter snowfalls in the Maluti Mountains (altitude > 3,000 metres). The first commercial diamond recoveries are expected from the Mothae mine in early November 2018, complementing production from the high-quality Lulo alluvial diamond mine operated by Lucapa in Angola. Production from the 1.1Mtpa Mothae treatment plant, which incorporates two XRT diamond recovery circuits, will be ramped up to its nameplate capacity throughout the December quarter. This will see Mothae ramp the tonnage up progressively to 90,000 tons per month over the fourth quarter of 2018 and be in a position to treat 1.1 million tons for 2019, CEO Stepen Wetherall told The Diamond Loupe in a wide-ranging interview.
The commencement of production from the new 1.1Mtpa diamond treatment plant will see bulk sampling operations concluded at Mothae, with the staff now transitioning to the commercial diamond plant. As announced earlier, the first parcel of ~2,500 of the Mothae bulk sampling diamonds was exported to Antwerp. Lucapa plans to export the remainder of the bulk sampling diamonds to Antwerp, ahead of the first scheduled sale in Q4, and intends to market Mothae's commercial production in Antwerp. "Lucapa, in conjunction with its Lesotho government partners, invited a number of proposals from diamond marketing agents in terms of how to market and where to market the Mothae product," Wetherall told us. "At this point in time, after detailed review, Mothae decided to send its diamonds to Antwerp for sale."
He continued, stating, "The board considered a number of points before deciding to market its product in Antwerp. Is the diamond centre well-established? Are there a number of established and competing tender houses, with solid reputations and viewing facilities? And, of course, the clients. Will the right clients see the product? Is the jurisdiction open to buyers from all countries where demand for rough diamonds is high? How strong are its fiscal control measures? Are there established anti-money laundering regulations and established banking systems? How has the jurisdiction stood up to all types of markets, when it is strong as well as weak? And very importantly, does it have sufficient access to peripheral diamond services such as cleaning, diamond study and evaluation technologies and, given future marketing strategies, outsourced cutting facilities - especially high-end. The board was satisfied that Antwerp ticked all of these boxes. And the buyers that come to Antwerp know the Lesotho production because the other three mines operating in Lesotho send their product there."