Kimberley Diamonds, the ASX-listed diamond company, has commenced open pit mining operations at its Lerala diamond mine in Botswana.

Assuming that re-commissioning of the process plant proceeds as planned in April 2016, the first production and recovery of diamonds is expected in April 2016, and the first diamond sales are expected in June 2016.

Mining at the Lerala diamond mine

The mining contract for the Lerala diamond mine was awarded to Basil Read Mining Botswana (Basil Read) following a competitive tender process from which Basil Read was ultimately selected.

Basil Read mobilised staff and equipment to the mine during the months of February and March. Mining then commenced early in April from the K3 kimberlite pipe and operations will continue to develop a buffer stockpile of fresh kimberlite ore.

Mining will then ramp up in line with the current production schedule to provide a consistent feed to the processing plant once processing commences.

Lerala process plant update

Plant construction activities continue to progress well despite recent delays experienced due to higher than usual rainfall being experienced at site. It is expected that plant construction will be completed by mid-April, with re-commissioning then expected to commence later in April.

The primary scrubber, secondary crusher, 400 t DMS storage bin and the new recovery module are all structurally complete, with electrical and instrumentation work well advanced.

Construction of the tailings dam extension commenced in March 2016 and is progressing on schedule to accept tailings in April 2016. In addition, construction of the new dry tailings conveyor system has also commenced in March 2016.

Re-commissioning of the process plant and consequent processing of kimberlite ore stockpiles remains on schedule to commence during April.

The first recovery of diamonds is expected during April 2016. The progress at the Lerala diamond mine to date has been consistent with Kimberley Diamonds’ forecasted schedules and remains in line with expected budgets.