Modern Mining December 2017


Firestone adopts a new mine plan for Liqhobong

In its recently released final results for the year ended 30 June 2017, AIM-listed Firestone Diamonds, which operates – and has a 75 % stake in – the new Liqhobong diamond mine in Lesotho says that com- mercial production at the mine was achieved on 30 June 2017. During the year, 365 891 carats were recovered and 310 376 carats were sold at an average price of US$90 per carat, generating revenue of US$27,8 million. Cash operating costs, says Firestone, were well managed at US$12,26 per tonne treated. Firestone notes, however, that the weak- ness in the diamond market and the lower than expected occurrence of larger, better quality diamonds have resulted in lower prices being achieved at its sales. This has resulted in the company adopting a shorter nine-year revised mine plan (previously 14 years) which it believes will deliver the best returns in the medium term at low risk. The plan, says Firestone, offers the optionality of taking advantage of the longer life of mine should the average diamond values received increase or should there be an improvement in market conditions. The lower average diamond prices achieved at sale to date have been disap- pointing but an improvement in average value per carat recovered is expected as mining progresses into all areas of the pit, says Firestone. Firestone recorded a loss before tax for the year of US$130 million, which includes an impairment charge of US$122,6 million reflecting a re-assessment of the carrying value of the Liqhobong asset. The com- pany says it is planning a potential capital raise of US$25 million to provide additional working capital and to sustain the com- pany at the current lower-than-expected average diamond values. Reviewing the year, Firestone notes that it saw the transition of the company from development to diamond produc- tion. “The transition was well managed and nameplate capacity of the plant was achieved early in the ramp-up phase. Steady state production targets for ore treated and waste mined were achieved from April 2017 onwards, only seven months after commencing operations,” says the company. “The ramp-up was not without its challenges, with recovered grade being

an initial issue. This, together with other commissioning issues which are normal in the ramp-up phase of a new plant, were resolved as far as possible by the end of March 2017 which enabled the plant to run at full production levels for a sustained Mining operations in progress at Liqhobong (photo: Firestone Diamonds). Katoro Gold commissions LiDAR survey AIM-listed Katoro Gold has commissioned a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sur- vey at its Imweru gold project in Tanzania to further strengthen the Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS), which remains on track for comple- tion in the near term.

three-month period, achieving commercial production by the end of the financial year.” A particular highlight of the year was the recovery of Liqhobong’s first plus 100-carat stone in April – a 109-carat gem- quality diamond. 

estimation and optimised mine design. The airborne LiDAR survey will be exe- cuted with a Piper PA-32 Cherokee 6, which is modified for this purpose and approved by the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority. The approximate US$14 000 cost of the LiDAR survey will be satisfied through the issue of new ordinary shares in Katoro on delivery of the survey report. Additionally, Katoro recently completed Phase 2 of the ESIA, used for predicting and assessing the potential environmental and social impacts of a project, evaluating alternatives and designing appropriate management and monitoring measures. It has subsequently received approval from the National Environmental Management Council to proceed with Phase 3 (final phase) of the ESIA. Louis Coetzee, Executive Chairman of Katoro commented: “We are delighted to have commissioned the LiDAR survey, which will add integrity and confidence to the PFS. Thanks to completing previous milestones at Imweru ahead of schedule, we can deliver this supplementary survey without compromising the timeline for the PFS and at no additional cash cost.” 

Katoro is advancing Imweru through a work programme consisting of the com- pletion of a PFS, a drilling programme, a feasibility study and the application for a mining licence, as well as an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). Accordingly, as a valuable addition to the PFS, a LiDAR survey has been commis- sioned without compromising the timeline or budget. The survey will use pulsed laser light to create a highly accurate data set over the entire envisaged Imweru mining area. The survey will measure the distance to a sur- face target area by illuminating that target with a pulsed laser light, and in doing so measuring the reflected pulses with a sen- sor. In the case of Imweru, this will be used to produce a digital topographical database to enable the creation of high-resolution topographical maps which will provide high accuracy data for the final resource

December 2017  MODERN MINING  9

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