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Gem Diamonds says production not affected by Lesotho political crisis

03 september 2014

Gem Diamonds, which owns 70 percent of the Letšeng mine, located in the Maluti mountains in Lesotho, said it does not expect any impact on its operations from the political crisis in the tiny southern African nation.
Lesotho military on Saturday took control over the capital Maseru strategic areas. Radio stations and telephones were also off for hours.
The country’s Prime Minister Tom Thabane fled for his life across the border to South Africa last Saturday, accusing the military of seizing power in a ‘coup’.
The military, however, denied staging a coup. Talks between the different factions, including executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and mediated by South African President Jacob Zuma saw the country's leaders agreeing to a roadmap Monday with a "clear timeline" to re-open parliament.
"Gem Diamonds has seen media reports of army activity in Maseru, Lesotho but, at this stage, our management in Lesotho report that Maseru is calm and there is no disruption whatsoever at the company’s Letšeng mine which is situated some 4 hours from Maseru in the mountains," it said.
"It is not anticipated that there will be any impact upon operations at Letšeng nor upon any of the company’s sales and marketing operations in respect of the Letšeng production."
Lesotho is an enclave constitutional monarchy state  surrounded by South Africa territory. It has undergone a number of military coups since independence from Britain in 1966.
The Letseng mine is characterized by extremely low grade ore (less than 2 carats per ton of ore); however, it is well known for recovery of huge diamonds and for having the highest percentage of large diamonds found (greater than 10.8 carats) among all kimberlite mines in the world. Consequently, the mine is leading in the highest dollar value per carat.
The Letseng mine is operated by Letseng Diamonds – a joint venture between the Gem Diamonds company (70%) and the government of Lesotho (30%).
During the period from 1977 to 1982, the mine was operated by De Beers, then the work at the mine was suspended until 2004, and late in 2006 the mine was acquired by Gem Diamonds for US$118.8 million.
At the Letseng mine, they process the ore extracted from two kimberline pipes and the accumulated reserves. The capacity of the mine is about 7 million tons or rocks per year, which allows it to produce approximately 100 thousand carats.
Letseng Diamonds announced selling of a blue diamond with a weight of 164 carats unearthed in the main tube of the Letseng mine on April 30, 2013. The diamond was sold in accordance with the profit-sharing agreement for US$9 million.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished