Canadian precious stones miner, Lucara Diamond Corporation, a multi-listed company that recently made back-to-back headlines globally with its rare mineral recoveries have started the year 2019 with impressive set of financial figures.
For the three months period ended 31st March 2019 the company raked in over P487 million in revenue from its wholly owned Botswana operation, Karowe mine, posting over 50 percent increase from 2018 quarter one revenue of just over P250 million. Karowe Mine is globally known for producing special stones over 1000 carat in the Boteti region. The mine is Lucara’s sole active rough diamond production, and Botswana’s most prolific mine outside De Beers’s bracket.
Lucara, listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) reported these figures on Friday last week. According to a statement dispatched from Vencuvour, Canada’s glamorous multi-trillion dollar business city, Lucara says 2019 Quarter 1 was characterized by a continuation of strong operating performance observed during the latter half of 2018. This conclusion according to Lucara emanates from the fact that the company has met and exceeded guidance with respect to all mining and processing activities.
During the three months period under review, Karowe processed a record 0.76 million tonnes of ore, putting 2019 Q1 up as the best quarter in the history of the 7 years old mine. During this period 1.0 million tonnes of Ore and 2.5 million tonnes of waste were mined at Karowe recovering 132,336 carats, achieving recovered grade of 15.9 per hundred tonnes processed. The carats recovered figure includes 10,899 carats unearthed from reprocessing historic recovery tailings from previous milling.
One of the key highlights during the quarter was recoveries of a 240 carat top white gem and a 223 carat high white gem with a total of 170 Specials recovered representing 4.1 percent weight percentage of total recovered carats. Lucara notes that the recovery figures post a satisfactory output in line with the mine plan expectations. A total of 7 diamonds were recovered greater than 100 carats in weight. In April 2019, the largest diamond to be mined at Karowe to date, an unbroken 1,758 carat near gem quality diamond was recovered.
This recovery is the largest diamond recovered in Botswana and one of the largest diamonds in recorded history, superseding the spot held by the 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona recovered from Karowe in 2015. Several large, high-value specials , single diamonds larger than 10.8 carats were sold in the Company’s first tender of 2019 which resulted in quarterly sales revenue of $48.7 million an almost double growth when weighed against 2018 Quarter 1 revenue of $25.4 million.
This represents $512 per carat for Lucara sales in the first quarter, yielding an operating margin of $343 per carat. During these three months period the Company held a blended tender in which diamonds recovered in the period December 2018 – February 2019 were sold. The Toronto Securities Exchange (TSE) listed diamond house highlights that the blended tender process decreases the inventory time to market of higher value diamonds.
A total of 95,057 carats were sold mirroring a significant growth compared to 63,317 carats sold in 2018 quarter 1, achieving a strong first quarter average price of $512 and with 50% more carats sold than Q1 2018. Historically, Lucara has sold diamonds through both regular stone tenders (RSTs) and exceptional stone tenders (ESTs). In September 2018, the Company modified its tender sales to a blended tender process, combining the sale of exceptional stones with the balance of run of mine production into one sale.
This change according to Lucara management was made to decrease the inventory time for large, high value diamonds and to generate a smoother revenue profile that better supports price guidance on a per sale basis. Beginning in December 2018, certain stones from the Karowe production were offered for sale through the Clara platform. Lucara says as the number of carats increases from better recovery in the smaller, lower value sizes, the average sales price per carat is reduced accordingly.
“The significant increase in carats is due to continued strong performance in the plant which had a record quarter of production of 0.76 million tonnes and an improved mine call factor,” observes Lucara Chief Executive Officer & President Eira Thomas, adding that Karowe plant also achieved record high availability during Q1 2019. The increase in the number of carats available for sale in the Q1 2019 tender follows commissioning of the sub-middles circuit in Q3 2017 and increased efficiency in diamond recovery in the smaller sizes and improved mill throughput.
The number of carats recovered in Q1 2019, being 121,437 carats processed from the mine was 60 percent higher than the 75,698 number of carats recovered in Q1 2018. On the expense front, for the period under review operating expenses increased from $14.6 million in Q1 2018 to $16.1 million in Q1 2019 due to a combination of higher volumes of ore mined and processed as well as an increase in the average cost per tonne mined.
The operating cash cost for the three months ended March 31, 2019 was $30.52 per tonne processed while in 2018 quarter 1 was $39.97 per tonne processed while a full year forecast for 2019 was cash cost of $32-$37 per tonne processed. Lucara management highlights in the statement that operating cash cost per tonne processed was positively impacted by a reduction in waste mined and an increase in tonnes processed during the first quarter
Depletion and amortization expense increased from $5.1 million in Q1 2018 to $11.6 million in Q1 2019 due to the 50 percent higher volume of carats sold during the period. Depletion and amortization expense has increased significantly as compared to prior periods for several reasons: an increasing number of fine diamonds recovered following improvements to the processing circuit implemented in late 2017, a larger mineral property balance from the waste stripping campaign between 2017 and 2018, and a corresponding increase in the rate of unit of production depletion from an update to the reserve base of the mine plan in Q3 2018.
Net income for the three months ended March 31, 2019 was $7.4 million, a significant pick up compared to a net loss of $7.0 million in the comparative quarter of 2018. Lucara President says the net income and earnings per share performance were as expected and reflect the stronger carat recoveries being achieved due to the investments in the plant as well as the transition to a blended sales tender process in 2019 creating a smoother revenue profile.
On the Clara space, a rough diamond digital sales platform under wholly ownership Lucara has continued to focus on building its customer base through the first quarter after its inaugural sale in Q4 2018. Lucara completed two sales during Q1 2019 with rough diamond sales of $1.4 million transacted through the platform. The company says it expects Clara to continue to grow its supply and demand concurrently through 2019 by adding third-party production to the platform as well as increasing the number of manufacturers who are buying on the platform.
Eira Thomas, President & CEO Lucara Diamond says her company focus on operational excellence has delivered another strong quarter, having met or exceeded guidance with respect to ore mined and processed as well as carats produced. “Costs were significantly down quarter over quarter and the first sale of the year delivered revenues in excess of US$ 47 million, in line with expectations,” she said in the statement.
Thomas further highlights that Lucara’s technologically advanced, XRT diamond recovery circuit delivered one of the largest diamonds in recorded history, the largest diamond recovered in Botswana, and the largest diamond to be mined at Karowe to date. “The unbroken 1,758 carat diamond is a testament to the remarkable nature of the Karowe resource and the strong operating environment prevailing at the mine.”
The local mining industry is on the rise again, emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic induced headwinds.
In 2020 mining operations had to curtail their production in response to plummeting demand across commodity markets. Companies also had to reduce their workforce to comply with COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the contagious plague.
This resulted in low production levels across the sector, however operations are significantly jumping back to pre-COVID-19 output levels albeit another variant that has now surfaced, posing uncertainty for the year 2022.
Just before close of business for the year 2021, Statistics Botswana released the Index of Mining Production, a quarterly measure of output across Botswana’s mining operations and extractive industries.
The Index of Mining Production stood at 95.5 during the third quarter of 2021, showing a year-on-year growth of 31.8 percent, from 72.5 registered during the third quarter of 2020.
The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows an increase of 11.6 percent from the index of 85.6 during the second quarter of 2021 to 95.5 observed during the period under review.
The main contributor to the increase in mining production came from the Diamonds, which contributed 31.2 percentage points.
Gold was the only negative contributor to mining production, at negative 0.4 of a percentage point.
Diamond production increased by 32.2 percent (1.584 million carats) from 4.916 million carats during the third quarter of 2020 to 6.5 million carats during the same quarter of the current year.
The increase was a result of planned strategy to align production with stronger trading conditions.
Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production registered an increase of 11.6 percent (673 000 carats) during the third quarter of 2021 compared to the 5.8 million thousand carats during the second quarter of 2021.
Botswana’s flagship diamond producer is De Beers – Government jointly owned Debswana, by far the country’ s mining jewel and global leader in rough diamond production.
The other diamond producing operation is Lucara’s 100 % owned Karowe Mine, a relatively small operation but known around the globe for its spectacular diamond recoveries, the likes of which the world has never seen before.
Gold production decreased by 26.9 percent (65 kilograms) during the third quarter of 2021, from 241kilograms during the same quarter of the previous year to 176 kilograms currently
The quarter-on- quarter analysis reflects a decrease of 5.5 percent (10 kilograms) to 176 kilograms during the third quarter of 2021, compared to 186 kilograms in the preceding quarter.
Botswana’s sole gold producer is Galane Gold’s Mupane Mine in North East Botswana, enclaved around the historic gold fields of Francistown.
The decrease in production according to Statistics Botswana was a result of the deteriorating lifespan of the mine. Mupane Gold Mine is currently on a rough run with imminent workers strike over unsatisfactory payments. The impending protests have been heavily endorsed by Botswana Mine Workers Union.
In Sua Pan, the sodium crystals have risen to glory, making Sowa Town great again, Soda Ash production rose by 81.7 percent (29, 312 tonnes) from 35, 883 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020 to 65, 195 tonnes in the same quarter of the current year.
The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production went up by 12.5 percent (7, 233 tonnes) during the period under review, from 57, 962 tonnes during the previous quarter.
The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.
Salt production went up by 86.1 percent (78, 566 tonnes) to 169, 826 tonnes during the third quarter of 2021, from 91, 261 tonnes during the same quarter of the previous year.
Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that salt production registered an increase of 66.9 percent (68, 050 tonnes) compared to 101, 776 tonnes during the second quarter of 2021.
Botswana’s industrial scale Salt an Soda Soda Ash producer is Botswana Ash (Botash), a 50-50 partnership between Botswana Government and South African Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) Group.
Coal production increased by 1.0 percent (5, 434 tonnes), from 543, 793 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020, to 549, 227 tonnes in the current quarter.
The slight increase came as a result of the efforts made to meet both domestic and international high demand, particularly that new markets have been identified.
The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production went up by 13.1 percent (63, 585 tonnes) compared to 485, 642 tonnes during the second quarter of the current year.
Inthe coal space the only operating mines are the privately developed Minergy’s Masama located near Media Village and the wholly Gorvenment owned Morupule Coal Mine.
Copper-Nickel-Cobalt Matte recorded zero production during the period under review. The affected mines are still under provisional liquidation.
Copper in Concentrates and Silver though there has been exportation of Copper by the newly launched Khoemacau Copper Mine since July 2021, the mine has been engaged in preparatory mining activities in readiness for full operations intended for the year 2022.
The preparatory mining operations yielded rewarding outcomes as copper residues realized have been exported since July 2021.
The period between preparatory and full operations is intended to allow the production to stabilize before reporting production output figures.
Botswana exports took a knock in October 2021 registering only P4,960.7 million, a 22.1 percent decline from the revised September 2021 value of P6,365.1 million, latest International Merchandise Trade Statistics have revealed.
According to this monthly data, released by Statistics Botswana late December 2021 the decline is attributed largely to the reduction in the exportation of Diamonds by 22.6 percent (P1, 264.8 million) from the revised September 2021 value of P5, 608.4 million to P4, 343.6 million.
Though it registered a decline in export figures , the Diamonds group still remained Botswana ‘s biggest exported commodity accounted for 87.6 percent (P4, 343.6 million) of total exports, followed by Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with 3.1 percent (P152.2 million) and 2.6 percent (P131.3 million) respectively.
During the month Asia was the main destination for Botswana exports, having received 65.5 percent (P3, 249.0 million) of total exports. These exports were mainly destined to the UAE and India, having received 28.1 percent (P1, 395.1 million) and 20.4 percent (P1, 011.8 million) of total exports, respectively. Only Diamonds and Copper were exported to the regional block during the October.
Exports destined to the EU amounted to P1, 066.6 million, accounting for 21.5 percent of total exports during the month under review. Belgium received almost all of the exports destined to the regional union, acquiring 21.4 percent (P1, 062.0 million) of total exports during the reporting period. The Diamonds group was the main commodity group exported to the EU.
The SACU region received exports valued at P423.6 million, representing 8.5 percent of total exports. Machinery & Electrical Equipment and Live Cattle accounted for 28.0 percent (P118.6 million) and 14.1 percent (P59.7 million) of total exports to the customs union.
South Africa received 7.8 percent (P386.7 million) of total exports during the month under review more goods entered Botswana in October than the previous month September.
On the other side the value of imports for the month of October clocked P8, 801.5 million, mirroring an increase of 30.5 percent (P2, 056.1 million) over the September 2021 revised figure of P6, 745.4 million.
The increase was mainly attributed to a more than 100 percent (P1, 755.9 million) rise in the importation of Diamonds from the revised September 2021 figure of P1, 616.2 million to P3, 372.0 during the current period.
Diamonds contributed 38.3 percent (P3, 372.0 million) to total imports. Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed with contributions of 12.3 percent (P1, 086.6 million), 11.7 percent (P1,034.1 million and 10.0 percent (P882.7 million) respectively. Chemicals & Rubber Products contributed 9.7 percent (P856.1 million).
During the month SACU region contributed 61.4 percent (P5, 405.3 million) to Botswana ‘s total imports. The top most imported commodity groups from the customs union were Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds, with contributions of 19.9 percent (P1, 075.1 million), 17.9 percent (P965.0 million) and 16.3 percent (P882.5 million) to imports from the region, respectively.
South Africa contributed 58.8 percent (P5, 176.0 million) to total imports during the reporting period. Fuel, Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds made contributions of 18.4 percent (P952.3 million), 18.3 percent (P949.4 million), and 16.0 percent (P826.7 million) respectively to imports from South Africa.
Botswana received imports worth P1, 794.2 million from the EU, accounting for 20.4 percent of total imports during October 2021.
The major commodity group imported from the EU was Diamonds, at 89.8 percent (P1, 611.0 million) of all imports from the union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, with a contribution of 18.7 percent (P1, 643.1 million) of total imports during the month of October.
During the month Imports from Asia were valued at P989.5 million, accounting for 11.2 percent of total imports.
The major commodity groups imported from the regional block were Diamonds and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 51.9 percent (P513.8 million) and 13.4 percent (P132.6 million) of total imports from Asia.
China and UAE supplied 2.5 percent (P221.3 million) and 2.3 percent (P202.0 million) of total imports during the period, respectively.
Canada supplied imports worth P364.0 million, representing 4.1 percent of Botswana’s total imports during the current period. Imports from Canada were mainly Diamonds, at 99.6 (P362.3 million) of imports from that country.
The rise in imports and decline in exports resulted in a trade deficit of P3, 840.8 million for the month of October.
During the month exports transported by Air were worth P4, 380.1 million, accounting for 88.3 percent of total exports, while those leaving the country by Road were valued at P567.5 million (11.4 percent) while imports representing 51.7 percent (P4, 554.0 million) were transported into the country by Road.
Transportation of imports by Rail and Air accounted for 24.4 percent (P2, 148.0 million) and 23.8 percent (P2, 098.4 million) respectively.
Debswana Diamond Company, Botswana’s flagship mining business recently received an award from Absa Bank Group in recognition of its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain.
The 4th Annual Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards were held in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 18th November 2021.
The awards celebrate companies that are working towards a better African continent through innovative and impactful supplier development initiatives.
The selection process acknowledges and recognizes corporates who go beyond the scorecard to open access, empower SMEs, foster learning, build a community of best practice and encourage a collaborative spirit within their industries and within the communities in which they operate.
Explaining how Debswana scooped the award Absa Bank Botswana Managing Director Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said: “At Absa Bank Botswana, we were excited that for the first time since inception, the 2021 awards were extended to include nominations from Sub-Saharan Africa.”
She explained that the judges special recognition awards for Sub Saharan Africa corporates (excluding South Africa) were made under four categories being: commitment to Economic Empowerment across the Supply Chain, commitment to women inclusion in the supply chain, Commitment to localization of the supply chain and lastly commitment to a pioneering supplier development.
“We immediately thought of the transformative and inspiring work that Debswana is doing locally and what the company continues to achieve through its Citizen Economic Empowerment Program,” she said.
Pheko-Moshagane explained that in recognition of this commitment and outstanding leadership Absa nominated Debswana Diamond Company into the competition under the category: “commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain”, for which the company was selected as the winner.
The Absa Bank Botswana MD hailed Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Program as a true example of how the private sector can contribute to rebuilding the economy through and post the Covid -19 pandemic.
“Your commitment to citizen economic empowerment resonates with us at Absa bank, because we are also committed to and passionate about growing Small and Medium businesses as they represent a vital part of our economy,” she said.
In 2017 Absa, launched the Enterprise and Supply Chain Development (ESD) in the local market as a response to address some challenges faced by the SMEs. The main objective of ESD is to unlock lending to SMEs in corporate value chains.
The introduction of the ESD program has streamlined some of the stringent financing requirements like the provision of financial statements, security, historical performance and weak credit ratings.
The relaxation of the financing requirements has therefore enabled the SMEs to execute on the provision of goods or services for the clients and positively impacted their growth.
ESD uses non-traditional bank lending solutions to provide financing to SME’s. Through this program Absa offers 100% finance to Enterprises in corporate supply chains.
Moshagane said this approach has allowed Absa to unlock the opportunities within the large corporate as they are now assured that their suppliers and contractors will be able to deliver and in addition releasing the corporate cash flows.
“We continue to explore various partnership agreements with various corporates to see how best we can assist the SMEs in response to government’s call for Citizen Economic Empowerment by propelling the support of the SMMEs” she said.
Speaking to Absa & Debswana partnership Mrs Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said the relationship thus far has seen Debswana extend contracts to the value of BWP1.2 billion to SMEs on a joint program, and Absa has financed close to half a billion to these SMEs, some of which would not have ordinarily qualified for funding under normal banking circumstances.
“To date no SME on the program has had its banking or contract facility terminated, which speaks to the commitment on both our ends in ensuring the success of these SMEs”
Receiving the award, Debswana Acting Managing Director, Lynette Armstrong explained that Debswana started its Citizen Economic Empowerment journey with ABSA Bank in 2017, borne out of the realisation of access to finance challenges by citizen owned enterprises.
This partnership, initiated with a deliverable to implement a pilot project at Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa Mines within the crushing and drilling spaces.
The two projects delivered the desired results in project KPI’s with impeccable safety records with Absa providing the required access to finance that enabled the citizen suppliers to acquire machinery for the projects.
In 2019, Debswana set up the Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme office a factor that accelerated the signing of a MoU in 2020 on access to finance between Debswana and ABSA and in that, ABSA has pledged to avail access to finance totalling an unprecedented BWP1billion over a period of 3 years.
To date, ABSA has financed 23 projects since 2020 at a total impact of BWP1.5 billion pula in Contract amount with more than BWP700 million advanced to citizen suppliers.
These funds enabled citizen suppliers to pay salaries on time, procure machinery in various areas such as drilling and crushing and participate in the recent LTE installation at Jwaneng Mine.
Armstrong said in the coming year 2022, CEEP will see Debswana focused on implementing plans aimed at supporting local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance.
“This is where access to funding is key as the two areas of local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance have a potential to create meaningful and sustainable employment in the medium to long term to achieve Debswana’s target of 20 000 jobs by 2024”
She noted that Debswana has committed to heightened efforts of connecting the Youth and Women in the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment conversation, capacitation series and participation in the economic opportunities to further, totally involve all possible demographics and diversify the creativity of building sustainable communities and Make Life Brilliant for all, a total commitment of our Debswana Strategy 2024.
The Debswana Acting MD said the recognition of Debswana for its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain by is an encouragement to the Debswana – ABSA partnership and “gives us hope to further intensify our efforts to create opportunities for our fellow citizens and support Government’s efforts towards achieving prosperity for all in terms of Vision 2036”