BY PORTIA NKANI
The Canadian based Lucara diamond mine, which owns and operates the Karowe diamond mine, is to evaluate various mining scenarios that have the potential enable it access to valuable ore as it ventures into underground mining this year.
Formerly the AK6 Project, Karowe operates in the Orapa/ Letlhakane Kimberlite in the north-central district of Botswana.
The Company which is known for its most precious stone “Lesedi La Rona”, last year embarked on an ambitious US$29 million (P303.54million) technical program to support a feasibility level study for a potential underground operation at the Karowe Diamond Mine.
The aim is to extend the life of mine from 2026 to at least 2036 the company says. The program includes a mineral resource update, geotechnical drilling of the rock strata and AK06 kimberlite, hydro geological drilling and modeling and mining trade off studies to address risks and issues identified during the PEA.
A total of US$23 million was spent out from a 2018 budget of US$29 million in support of this work. This resulted in significant de-risking of key technical components associated with the potential underground development.
President and also Chief Executive Officer, Eira Thomas, shares: “The updated mineral resource completed in 2018 highlighted the important contribution of the higher grade, higher value EM/PK(S) geological unit as we mine deeper in the south lobe and has necessarily re-focused our approach to the Karowe Underground study.In 2019 we will be evaluating various mining scenarios that have the potential to access this valuable ore as early as possible in the underground mining schedule.“
Other highlights from the company’s 2018 work program include the successful completion of a deep hydro geological drilling campaign, which the company says did not encounter significant water and has substantially de-risked the overall underground project.
Lucara has assembled a team of experts to work on the feasibility study and provide it with a fit-for-purpose underground mine design that will work to optimize and maximize the economic returns of the underground project.
The study will be complete by the second half of 2019.
Historically, the EM/PK(S) has produced some of Karowe’s most valuable diamonds, including the 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona and the 813 carat Constellation.
Two weeks ago, the Canadian company announced the recovery of a 127 carat, a top white gem diamond at its Karowe operation making it its latest high value gem
Since mining began at Karowe in 2012, a total of 129 diamonds in excess of 100 carats have been recovered, 33 in 2018 alone.
That tally includes 12 diamonds larger than 300 carats in size, of which 5 were recovered in 2018.
In addition, Lucara has sold 180 diamonds in excess of $1 million (P10.47million) each and ten diamonds have been sold in excess of $10 million (P104.67million) each.
Lucara’s outlook revenue is forecast to be between $170 million and $200 million (P1.8billion-P2.1billion), consistent with the forecast for 2018.
These projections include “Specials” which are diamonds that are 10.8 carats and larger but exclude the sale of any truly unique diamonds such as the 1,109 carat Lesedi la Rona and the 813 carat Constellation.
Specials are consistently recovered from the Karowe diamond mine and contribute a significant percentage of the Company’s annual revenue.
Diamonds recovered are expected to be between 300,000 carats and 330,000 carats and diamonds sold are expected to be between 300,000 carats and 320,000 carats.