The AIM-listed company noted in its December 2016 quarterly update that it is pleased with the tons that have been processed by the plant, which has already seen nameplate production reached on multiple occasions at this early stage of ramp up.”
As at 31 December 2016, construction was completed at Liqhobong, with first ore already treated through the plant at the end of October 2016.
By the end of December 2016, 402 000 t of ore had been treated through the plant and 58 000 ct recovered, including over 20 special stones larger than 10.8 ct, with the largest being a 37 ct white diamond, as well as several fancy yellow diamonds.
“We have recovered over 20 special stones (larger than 10.8 ct), including a 37 ct white stone and several smaller yellow and fancy yellow stones, with no breakages of larger stones to date,” said Brown.
Firestone Diamonds CEO Stuart Brown said the start of commissioning has seen the processing of historic low grade stockpiles, diluted ore and low-grade ore from the main pit.
Brown said Firestone Diamonds will continue mining in the lower quality ore areas until the recoveries have reached required levels; the company will then move into the better quality ore areas within the main pit, where the higher value diamonds are expected to be recovered. The recovery tailings from the commissioning phase are being stored separately and will be retreated once the commissioning adjustments have been made.
“At this stage of the ramp up, Firestone Diamonds has encountered the normal commissioning challenges, which are being addressed by our team in a methodical way.”
Despite this, operations at the plant have seen good volumes being treated, and on a few occasions the plant met the nameplate capacity target of 500 tph for 24 consecutive hours. Firestone Diamonds remains on target to achieve nameplate production by the beginning of the second quarter of 2017.
“During the commissioning phase we have been careful to manage costs in line with the planned tonnage volumes at $12/t treated,” said Brown.
“The rainy season has also begun and water is being collected and stored in the various water storage facilities for future operations in the dry season.”
The project maintained its health and safety record during the quarter, reaching 3.6 million man hours worked without a lost time injury.
Commenting on financials, Brown said Firestone Diamonds continues to manage its cash prudently. At the end of the year, cash on hand was $4 million with $14 million available under the ABSA debt facility and a further $15 million available under the standby facility.
At the end of December 2016, 95% of the capital budget had been spent on the project with the remaining $8 million to be spent in the first quarter of 2017.
Firestone Diamonds has scheduled its first diamond sale to take place in Antwerp in the week of 6-10 February 2017. The company expects to host two sales per quarter with the second auction due late in the first quarter of 2017.