Firestone Diamonds has issued its fourth quarter (ended December 31) production results, announcing that its Liqhobong project construction is 100% complete and ramping up to nameplate capacity, and that its first diamond recoveries commenced in late October 2016.
Firestone recovered over 20 special stones (larger than 10.8 carats), with the largest being a 37 carat white diamond, as well as several fancy yellow diamonds. Processing of lower grade stockpiles and diluted ore in the quarter produced 58,000 carats at a grade of 14.4 carats per hundred tons. 402,000 tons were treated by the processing plant and they achieved nameplate capacity on multiple occasions.
They further announced strong operating cost management of US$12 per ton treated at bottom end of guidance. The first sale of Liqhobong diamonds will be held in Antwerp, Belgium from 6-10 February 2017.
Stuart Brown, Chief Executive Officer, commented: "Construction activities at Liqhobong were completed early in the quarter and we are currently in the commissioning and ramp up stage of the Project. We have been pleased with the tonnes processed by the plant, which has already seen nameplate production reached on multiple occasions at this early stage of ramp up."
Firestone add that, "As is normal during the commissioning phase of a new plant, we have had to modify or change certain operating parameters. The current grade of 14.4 carats per hundred tonnes has been below the initial commissioning estimates and the Company is currently focused on making adjustments and investigating potential causes for the under recovery of lower value finer diamonds.
"During the commissioning process we will continue mining in the lower quality ore areas until the recoveries have reached required levels, following which we will then move into the better quality ore areas within the main pit, where the higher value diamonds are expected to be recovered. The recovery tailings from the commissioning phase are being stored separately and will be retreated once the commissioning adjustments have been made."
At the end of the year, cash on hand was US$4 million with US$14 million available under the ABSA debt facility and a further US$15 million available under the standby facility. At the end of December 2016, 95% of the capital budget had been spent on the project with the remaining US$8 million to be spent in Q1 2017. Liqhobong is owned 75% by Firestone and 25% by the Government of Lesotho.
Source: The Diamond Loupe