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Mothae Mine completes plant expansion, eyes bright future

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Bereng Mpaki

MOTHAE Diamond Mine has completed the project to upgrade its processing plant. The expansion project will enable the mine to increase its production capacity by 45 percent from 1, 1 million tonnes of ore processed to 1, 6 million tonnes per annum.

The timely completion of the project suggests that the mine has come back stronger having only resumed operations in October 2020 following a six- months’ care and maintenance phase.

The Australian Securities Exchange listed Lucapa Diamond Company Limited is the majority shareholder in Mothae Mine with a 70 percent stake while the remaining 30 percent is controlled by the government. The mine started commercial mining in January 2019.

In a weekend statement to the Sunday Express, Lucapa Managing Director Stephen Wetherall said, “the expansion project, which is designed to increase capacity by 45 percent from 1, 1 million tonnes per annum to 1, 6 million tonnes has been completed.

“The processing plant was handed back to the production team after completion of the installation of the new scrubber bypass conveyor, the new primary jaw crusher and other associated upgrades. The project was completed on-time, within budget and with no safety incidents recorded,” Mr Wetherall said.

He said they look forward to increased productivity when the new plant starts operating in the second quarter of 2021.

“The upgraded processing plant is being re-commissioned and is being ramped up to its new increased capacity. It is expected that Mothae will complete this ramp up by the end of the month (March) and will then operate at the new expanded capacity from the beginning of the second quarter of 2021.

“The completion of the Mothae expansion project on time and within budget, despite the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic earlier in January 2021, is a credit to the Mothae management, staff and contractor teams.

“Lucapa and the government of Lesotho look forward to the increased recoveries and economy of scale benefits this expansion was designed to provide.

In another development, Mr Wetherall revealed the mine had realised US$5, 9 million from the sale of 5619 carats of rough diamonds.

This is in addition to the sale of 4 676 carats of raw diamonds worth US$5, 6 million in January this year.

Commenting on the latest sale, Mr Wetherall said, “Lucapa and its partner, the government of Lesotho, are pleased to announce the results of the second diamond sale in 2021 from the Mothae Mine.

“The 5619-carat parcel of rough diamonds was sold for US$1050 per carat.

“Since re-opening following the six-month suspension, Mothae has shown its quality with regular recoveries of large and high value diamonds leading to run-of-mine diamond prices above US$1000 per carat for the second sale running. This is 75 percent above the average diamond price budgeted for Mothae in 2021.

“With the positive sentiment returning to the diamond sector we too look forward to Mothae operating at its now expanded capacity of 1, 6 million tonnes per annum for the remainder of the year, following the completion of the expansion project.”

Mr Wetherall said due to the “strong production and sales results”, Mothae had repaid US$2 million to its parent company, Lucapa “in respect of the loan advanced for the development, construction and expansion of the mine”.

 

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