MASERU — Local diamond mining firm, Meso Diamonds, says it will begin the prospecting process at the Lemphane kimberlite in Butha-Buthe in the next three months.
Meso Diamonds was last week awarded a two-year prospecting licence by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Meso Diamonds is a joint venture between a local firm, Matekane Group of Companies (MGC), and investors from the United Kingdom.
MGC has interests in mining, civil engineering, construction and the transport sector in Lesotho.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express on Wednesday, MGC chairman Sam Matekane said the licence will allow Meso Diamonds to carry out diamond exploration at Lemphane.
“We are yet to meet with our partners to make preparations for the commencement of the project,” he said.
“In about three months we hope to begin with the prospecting operations.”
Matekane said they expected to begin full-scale production after two years, adding that they hoped 10 other local investors and the government of Lesotho will join hands to run the mine.
“Right now we have been given the go-ahead to conduct feasibility studies and identification of the resource grade at the mine,” he said.
Matekane said if the feasibility studies prove that there is enough diamond to warrant large-scale mining operations, Meso Diamonds and other local investors will form a joint company to control the mine.
Matekane said they expected to create about 200 jobs for locals in Butha-Buthe during the prospecting process.
“It is our intention to develop the communities located near the mines through job creation,” he said.
“We will also provide a market for agricultural produce from the surrounding areas.”
The total prospecting area is about six square kilometres.
Lemphane is situated near two other diamond mines, Kao and Liqhobong.
It is situated in the highlands of Butha-Buthe along the Maliba-Matso River, about 130km north of Maseru.
The construction of the access road to the mine has already started.
Electricity lines are also being erected.
An official from the Ministry of Natural Resources who requested anonymity said the licence awarded to Meso Diamonds had at first been awarded to another local firm which failed to do the job.
“The company was not able to use the prospecting licence during the period that was agreed upon. The licence was then awarded to Meso,” the official said.
There are currently four companies that have been awarded full mining leases by the government of Lesotho.
The mines are Letseng Diamonds, Liqhobong, Kao and Mothae.
Of these only Letseng is operating at full production.
Production at other mining companies has been mothballed due to the rapid decline in the price of rough diamonds which hit rock bottom in 2008.
The price for rough diamonds has however steadily increased, resulting in some of the companies resuming production this year.