M2.1bn Liqhobong project set to take off

M2.1bn Liqhobong project set to take off



THE M2.1 billion project at Liqhobong Mine is 72 percent complete and production will start in fourth quarter as planned.

In a trade update issued last week Firestone Diamond Plc which owns 75 per cent of the mine said the project remains on schedule and within budget.

Once the project is complete Liqhobong Mine will treat 3.6 million tonnes of ore and recover one million carats per year.

Firestone said Residues Storage Facility (“RSF”) starter wall, Design and Engineering, Procurement, Earthworks and Structural Steel Fabrication are almost complete.

The mine was connected to the national power grid in the fourth quarter of last year. Also, Firestone’s concern over getting enough water to the mine in preparation for production has also eased.

“The Company continues its water storage activities and now has in excess of 500,000 cubic metres of water on site, sufficient for the first year of production, thus de-risking the project further by mitigating one of the critical early start-up risks,” said the statement released on April 14.

“Firestone has achieved another strong quarter of progress at Liqhobong, which, as at 31 March 2016, was 72 percent complete and on track for initial production in Q4 2016,” said Stuart Brown, Firestone chief executive.

“The last quarter saw favourable weather conditions at site and the granting of a number of work permits by the Government of Lesotho, our 25 percent partner in the Project, contributing towards completing a number of key project components,” Brown said.

“Firestone remains fully funded to completion of the Project, production ramp up and the first sale of its Liqhobong diamonds and I look forward to providing further updates as we move towards project commissioning in Q4 (Fourth Quarter).”

The statement said “all significant civils and earthworks have now been completed and in December 2015, the site was handed over to the Structural, Mechanical, Plate and Pipework contractors for the erection of the main plant”.

“As expected the detailed mine planning continues to be refined and reviewed as the Project progresses towards production. Operational readiness, led by the Project team, is well underway and the team’s main focus during this quarter was contract placement and staff recruitment.”

Liqhobong Mine has 952 employees and contractors but the number is expected to increase significantly towards the end of the year when full production starts.

Firestone said it had managed to keep the Liqhobong project’s development on schedule while enforcing “a rigorous safety policy and has continued to maintain its lost time injury free record, with approximately 2.2 million man hours worked as at the end of March 2016.”

By the end of last month Firestone had invested R1.5 billion (US$129.9 million) or 70 percent of the revised capital budget of R2.1 billion into Liqhobong Mine.

In a statement in February Firestone said a new access road to the mine had been completed. It said the relocation of 28 families was nearly complete, with 26 houses finished.

A fully staffed and equipped clinic for the mine employees complete and being commissioned, the company said. The mine has also finalised a compensation payment structure for loss of grazing land agreed with the local community.

Firestone acquired Liqhobong from Kopane Diamonds plc in 2010. The government owns 25 percent of the mine. Trial mining started through a pilot plant in 2011 yielding over 325,000 carats.

Facts about Liqhobong Mine

-M2.1 to be invested

-M1 million carats to be produced

-M1.5 m invested to March

-82 percent of the workers are Basotho

-28 families relocated

-2.2 m hours worked without accident


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