ASX-listed diamond miner Lucapa Diamond Company is on track to report an operating profit in 2019 following the strong performance from both its Lulo and Mothae mines in H1, 2019. Mothae in particular has delivered exceptional results to date, and exceeded original forecasts.
Diamond mining and processing operations continued to perform ahead of plan at the Lesotho-based Mothae mine in just its second quarter of operations, even though mining was restricted predominantly to the lower-margin sections of the kimberlite pipe, including the northern and neck zones.
Mothae produced 6 349 carats in the quarter for an H1, 2019 total of 13 267 carats, 36% ahead of H, 2019 plan. This was due to the efficiency of the new 1.1 Mtpa plant and higher-than-planned recovered grades from weathered material of 2.39 cpht for the Quarter and 2.42 cpht for H1, 2019.
Large diamond recoveries during the quarter included two +50 carat stones, including a 126 carat diamond, the largest gem-quality recovery from Mothae to date. Like the Lulo mine, production from Mothae included rare Type IIa diamonds, as well as Type IIb diamonds.
Cash operating costs for H1, 2019 were US$12.56/t, 14% better than plan.
This, combined with the H1 sales and closing inventories, delivered positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $1.1 million for H1, 2019, despite mining being restricted predominantly to the lower-margin zones as referred to above.
Mining is on track to transition to the higher-margin diamond zones in the southern pit following further good progress made during the Quarter in raising the wall of the new main 500 000 m³ water dam.
The increased height of the dam wall has enabled the dewatering of the southern pit to commence, with this water being pumped into Dam 4 for storage and later use in the processing plant. As a result, mining and processing of higher-margin kimberlite material from the southern pit will commence early in Q3, 2019 and continue throughout 2019.
The second tender of run of mine Mothae diamonds was completed in Antwerp during the quarter. The parcel of 7 008 carats of carats of rough diamonds sold for $3.5 million. The tender included prices of up to $26 000 per carat paid for individual Mothae gems.
The sale brought to $7.3 million the total sale proceeds generated from the two tenders of Mothae diamonds completed in H1, 2019. This represents an average overall price of $588/carat for the entire run of mine production or $729 per carat for diamonds in the +11 sieve size fraction.
Mothae had a closing diamond inventory of 3 855 carats at the end of the quarter, including the 126 carat diamond.
The next sale of Mothae diamonds is scheduled for July 2019 in Antwerp, with a further export of diamonds for tender to commence late in Q3, 2019. In total, three Mothae diamond sales are scheduled for H2, 2019, compared to two sales in H1 2019.