Sales from the high-value Letšeng mine rose sharply in the third quarter as improved demand for high-value rough diamonds boosted prices, owner Gem Diamonds reported Tuesday.
Letšeng sales grew 19% year on year to $48.1 million in the three months to September 30, the miner said. While the sales volume slipped 3% to 25,909 carats, the average price advanced 23% to $1,858. The first of the quarter’s two tenders achieved $2,397 per carat — the highest average price for a tender since September 2015.
“The market for Letšeng’s high-quality diamonds has remained firm over the period, with the July tender achieving nearly $2,400 per carat,” said Gem Diamonds CEO Clifford Elphick.
During the period, Gem Diamonds sold a 7.87-carat pink diamond for $202,222 per carat, the second-highest average price in the Lesotho mine’s history. A 55.58-carat, white diamond went for $61,778 per carat, the highest average price for a white diamond from the mine this year, the company said. Other sales in the quarter included a 126.75-carat stone, which fetched $56,402 per carat.
The company also saw an increase in availability of high-end stones, with the Letšeng mine yielding six 100-carat-plus diamonds in the first nine months of the year, compared with just four in the whole of 2016. Total production from Letšeng leapt 26% to 30,774 carats.
To boost its large-stone discoveries further, Gem Diamonds is considering introducing technology to prevent diamonds breaking up by identifying precious stones in the kimberlite prior to crushing. The company is working with experts from the University of Johannesburg on this project.
Meanwhile, the company has received a conditional offer for its Ghaghoo mine in Botswana, which it has been looking to sell due to a drop in prices for its more commercial-quality rough. Due diligence and discussions with the potential buyer are ongoing, Gem Diamonds said.
The miner, which stopped operations at Ghaghoo earlier this year, sold 13,021 carats of remaining rough from the asset during the third quarter for an average price of $175 per carat.