Lucara Diamond said it is not in a hurry to sell the 1, 109 carat Lesedi La Rona recovered in Botswana after bidders failed to reach the reserve price at a public auction in London mid this year.
The company said at the time that the failure of the diamond to sell in London was not influenced by the economic uncertainty caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union or the state of the global economy.
Lucara also said at the time that the size of the diamond meant it could not be properly analysed by equipment the industry uses to establish the optimal cut and the polished diamonds that could be extracted.
However, company chief executive William Lamb told Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa that the tennis ball-sized gem was sent for advanced analysis to fully understand the potential yield for the stone.
He said Lucara would only assess the market and potentially put the stone on the market again once the advanced analysis was complete in the first quarter of 2017.
Below are excerpts of the interview.
What are your options for the sale of the 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona?
With the financial strength of the company, there is no rush to sell the diamond. At this time, we have sent the stone for advanced analysis to fully understand the potential yield for the stone. Once this is complete, which is expected to be done in Q1, 2017, we will assess the market and potentially put the stone on the market again.
So do you have any plans of conducting another public auction for Lesedi La Rona?
The company learnt many things during the auction process. There are a number of changes we would make to better demonstrate to the private collector what the intrinsic value of the stone is prior to going back to the auction platform.
Lucara was awarded two prospecting licenses in 2014 that are known to host kimberlites, BK02, AK11 and AK12, AK13 and AK14. Can you provide an update on work that you have done on these licenses to date?
The first bulk sample from BK02 was completed earlier this year. A total of 274.33 carats were recovered from the processing of 5,916 tonnes of BK02 for a sample grade of 4.6 cpht (carats per hundred tonne). The largest diamond recovered was a 5.48 carat brownish octahedron. In addition, a total of 24 stones were recovered greater than 1 carat in weight including 3 diamonds in excess of 2 carats.
Based on the above results, a second bulk sample is currently being processed to obtain a sample of diamonds large enough for basic valuation purposes.
The bulk sample from AK12 was stopped after the processing of half of the planned volume due to very low recovered diamond grade. Delineation drilling of AK11 and BK02 is ongoing.
Your company recently started a drilling programme designed to test the AK06 kimberlite at depths below 400m. What is the purpose of this programme and when do you intend to get results?
The purpose of the deep drilling process is to extend the Indicated resource to 600m depth.
This will provide sufficient resource for the Company to complete a pre-feasibility level underground study. The resource update is expected to be complete in Q2, 2017 with the PFS underground study following this.
How far have you gone with your capital projects for large diamond recovery?
The engineering design for the Mega diamond recovery circuit is well advanced. The project is expected to be complete in Q3, 2017
Lucara recorded a net loss of $3.8 million in the third quarter of the year compared to a net income of $44.2 million in the prior year, due to reduced sales. What prompted the cut in number of sales?
The variance is purely due to the timing of the Exceptional Stone Tender. This tender [closed] on November 16.
You have lined up a few sales before the end of the year. How confident are you of recording better prices?
The market remains strong, especially in the larger size fractions. We are confident that the company will exceed its revenue guidance target for 2016 [of between $200 million and $220 million].
What is your prognosis of the state of the diamond industry as the year draws to an end?
A lot of rough production has been sold during 2016. This rough being sold at prices higher than the trade recommended to enable them to maintain their margins. The company’s outlook for 2017 is extremely cautious, primarily because polished sales do not match the volume of rough sold, resulting in an increase in polished inventory.
What is your projection of the diamond industry in 2017?
Cautious! The diamond market for 2017 will be determined by the sales and marketing efforts for polished goods through the holiday season, which in turn will either open liquidity early in 2017 or have a negative impact on rough diamond prices.