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Lesotho to boost annual diamond output fivefold by 2017

11 february 2016
Lesotho said it is planning to boost its annual diamond output from the current 340 000 carats to 1,5 million carats in 2017.
Mines minister Lebohang Totanyana told delegates at the African Mining Indaba that this would be achieved as most of the operations in the country were scheduled to reach full production by next year.
He said Linqobong Mine, which was set to commence production end of the year, would produce 1 million carats, while Koo would contribute 260 000 carats.
Totanyana said Letseng would produce 110 000 carats, while Lemphane and Mothae would add a combined output of 100 000 carats.
He said Northen Fissures would also contribute 72 000 carats.
Meanwhile, the mines minister said that the country had 405 kimberlite bodies of which 39 were pipes, 23 blows and 343 dykes.
Totanyana said that the country was gradually moving towards adding value to its rough diamonds by first offering the stones locally instead of packaging them for the export market.
“For a long time we had a challenge which was structural, we never had a platform were diamonds could be bought and sold in the country. In the past we would produce and package our goods for Antwerp,” he said.
“That on itself created challenges for us if we wanted to cut and polish our diamonds. We are now introducing the Lesotho Diamond Centre which is going to be a platform for buying and selling of diamonds, and we believe that this is the starting point if you want to go into cutting and polishing.”
He said Gem Diamonds’ Letseng had a cutting and polishing factory that was ready, but Maseru and the company were working on an appropriate business model that would bring viability.
“For us its not about just beneficiation in the country, it must also make business sense for our investors to cut and polish,” said Totanyana.
“We want to find ways and means in which that can be achieved and am excited in the level of commitment that we see from people who want to occupy that (beneficiation) space.”
Lesotho was known for producing some of the world’s largest diamonds and for highest price per carat.
Letseng diamonds averaged $2500 per carat.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, from Cape Town, South Africa, Rough&Polished