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No Ruling Yet On DiamonEx Mine Liquidation

10 july 2009

John Stevens, DiamonEx's judicial manager, has said that the Botswana High Court has not yet made a ruling on the liquidation of the Lerala diamond mine, RAPAPORT reported citing Mmegi. Stevens said on Monday that there was a hearing at the High Court recently on DiamonEx's request to put the mine through liquidation, but they are still waiting for a ruling.
DiamonEx has not made any profit since it started operating, due to disappointing results from its first sales. Its opening coincided with the world economic crunch, and the company was left with no choice but to seek permission to be put under judicial management by the High Court. Currently, the mine is not operating.
Stevens said that he hopes the mine will recover when the diamond prices improve. He said the judicial management order for the mine was for one year, ending in February 2010.
He added that $41.1 million (BWP 280 million) was used to set up the mine. Stevens maintained that the investment will be recovered if the mine is fully operational and generating profit. "In the future, obviously we will recover that money," he said.
Stevens explained that the machinery is still at the mine site, and a security company has been deployed to safeguard it. "Nothing is happening at the mine. All the diamonds that were previously mined have been sold."
Stevens said that all 160 of the mine's employees' salaries have been paid up to January this year, but severance, leave and notice payments are still outstanding. He is hopeful that if the operation starts up again, the company will try to rehire its employees, but if they have secured employment elsewhere, they may not be recalled.
Ponatshego Kedikilwe, minister of minerals, energy and water resources, has said the government assisted DiamonEx in securing a loan of $1.4 million (BWP 10 million) from a local commercial bank. The government holds the mine's diamonds as security. "We have made arrangements for the loan to be paid back because we have made a guarantee, and the government will sell the diamonds to recover the money," he explained.
The minister said that in the meantime, the government arranged for Flemming and African Alliance Fund Managers to assist DiamonEx in ultimately getting back on its feet. He added that they are still negotiating with an international bank that had financed DiamonEx, urging it to accept the proposal by the fund managers to avoid liquidation. He hopes that the mine will start operations again.