Firestone Diamonds plc reports that "good progress" was made in improving the quality and value of diamonds recovered from its Liqhobong mine in Lesotho following the planned shutdown at the mine's pilot plant in July 2012.
The mine's pilot plant was shut down for 14 shifts in July to be fitted with equipment necessary to reduce diamond breakage of the larger stones. According to Firestone Diamonds, while the retrofitting was successful, returning the plant to steady state of production took longer than anticipated due to technical challenges as well as extremely cold weather and heavy snowfalls in Lesotho in August.
As a result, the plant only returned to steady state conditions during mid-September. However, since mid-September, Firestone notes that it has seen a marked increase in the recovery of higher quality white and undamaged stones and the higher run rate has continued into early October.
Higher Value Stones
Amongst the largest stones recovered in August and September were three yellow stones weighing 27, 17 and 15 carats and three white stones weighing 12.4, 9.2 and 9.1 carats.
"The change in the amount of whiter stones recovered is also encouraging which should continue on an upward trend as the mine plan calls for more of the higher grade, larger stone bearing areas of the pit to be mined during the remainder of the year," says Tim Wilkes, Chief Executive Officer of Firestone Diamonds.
The feed for the pilot plant is expected to improve in grade and quality over the coming weeks as more of the K5 higher grade rock that historically carries the bigger stones will be exposed in the open pit.
Wilkes adds that results of the Definitive Feasibility Study for the Main Treatment Plant at Liqhobong will be announced by the end of this month. Additionally, Firestone's next dual tender will be held in mid-October 2012 in Gaborone and Antwerp.