Lucara Diamond Corporation a Canadian conceived diamond group operating Botswana’s large diamonds producer Karowe mine this week announced the recovery of yet another rare mineral find, this time the largest diamond ever unearthed in Botswana.
A statement from Vancouver released on April 25, 2019 reports that the 1,758 carat diamond is one of the largest diamonds in recorded history, and the largest diamond to be mined at Karowe to date. Karowe Mine is wholly owned by Lucara, located in the lucrative Boteti diamond fields which houses one of the most prolific diamond kimberlites in the world.
According to the Botswana Stock Exchange top gem producer the unbroken 1,758 carat stone was recovered through Lucara’s state of the art XRT circuit, commissioned in April 2015. Weighing close to 352 grams and measuring 83mm x 62mm x 46mm, the diamond has been characterized as near gem of variable quality, including domains of high-quality white gem.
Since commissioning of the XRT circuit in 2015, a total of 12 diamonds in excess of 300 carats have been recovered at Karowe, including 2 greater than 1,000 carats, from a total production of approximately 1.4 million carats. Of the 12 +300 carat diamonds recovered, 50 percent were categorised as gem quality with 11 sold to date generating revenue in excess of US$158 million, around P1.5 billon
Lucara President & Chief Executive Officer Eira Thomas says Lucara’s technologically advanced; XRT diamond recovery circuit has once again delivered historic results. “Karowe has now produced two diamonds greater than 1,000 carats in just four years, affirming the coarse nature of the resource and the likelihood of recovering additional, large, high quality diamonds in the future, particularly as we mine deeper in the ore body and gain access to the geologically favourable EM/PK(S) unit, the source of both of our record breaking, +1,000 carat diamonds.” She said,
Since mining began at Karowe in 2012, a total of over 129 diamonds in excess of 100 carats have been recovered, 33 in 2018 alone. The tally includes 12 diamonds larger than 300 carats in size, of which 5 were recovered in 2018. In addition, Lucara has sold 180 diamonds in excess of $1 million each and ten diamonds have sold for in excess of $10 million each.
In 2015 the company recovered the world‘s third largest diamond ever found, and the second-largest of gem quality. Only the non-gem black Sergino and the gem-quality Cullinan are larger that Lesedi La Rona which made waves internationally on the global diamond sales space. The 1 109 carats Lesedi La Rona diamond got its name from a P25 000 national naming competition and was sold to a London based British multinational jeweler, Graff Diamonds.
The Karowe Diamond mine currently boasts of its open pit reserves of 2.6 million carats extending out to 2026 and is in the process of completing a feasibility study that could expand mining underground to 2036 and beyond. Lucara reports that a budget of $14.8 million has been approved to complete a feasibility study that was initiated last year, evaluating the potential for an underground mining operation at the mine.
“Work undertaken in 2018 under a budget of approximately $29 million has significantly de-risked the project and in 2019, efforts will focus on follow up geotechnical and hydrogeological drilling and related studies,” shared Eira Thomas in statements released early this year.
Lucara hinted the possibility of going underground in their Quarter 3 results last year when they received promising feedback from the underground feasibility study. According to the Vancouver headquartered Diamond Corporation an updated mineral resource was announced for the AK06 kimberlite during 2018 Q2. The updated Mineral Resource Estimate was completed by Mineral Services Canada Inc.
The estimate is based on historical evaluation data combined with new sampling results of microdiamond, bulk density and petrography from recent deep core drilling and from historical drill cores. Lucara further explains that new delineation drill coverage and review of historical drill cores supported an update of the internal geological model. Production data which includes a controlled production run from the Eastern magmatic-pyroclastic kimberlite and recent sales-valuation results have been incorporated into the grade and value estimates, which have been made based on an updated model of process plant recovery efficiency.
The in situ Mineral Reserve for AK06with an effective date of May 25, 2018 is within the probable category containing 19.84 Million tonnes with a recoverable grade of 13.08 carats per hundred tonne for 2.60 Million carats with an average price per carat of $ 624/ct. “Life of Mine and Working stockpiles contribute an additional 5.56 Million tonnes with a recoverable grade of 6.7 carats per hundred tonne with an average price of $625/ct. The recoverable grade is based on the updated Mineral Resource estimate as presented in the technical report (1.25 mm bottom cut off size – BCOS) at 70 percent of in situ carats at 1.00 mm bottom cut off size.
For the year 2019, the Lucara projected revenues between $170 million and $200 million, consistent with the forecast for 2018. These projections include “Specials” which are diamonds that are 10.8 carats and larger but exclude the sale of any truly unique diamonds such as the 1,109 carat Lesedi la Rona and the 813 carat Constellation. Thomas says having stabilized and significantly improved its mining operations at Karowe in 2018; Lucara is now focused on optimizing the base business and pursuing a suite of high potential, organic growth opportunities. “The completion of a feasibility study examining the potential for underground production and Life of Mine expansion at Karowe from 2026 until at least 2036 remains a top priority for 2019,” she said.
Lucara Boss also added that her company will continue to systematically ramp up diamond sales through Clara , the company’s transformational, proprietary digital sales platform that successfully completed its first trial sale in December 2018.“Our focus at Karowe in the remaining course of 2019 will be on driving operational efficiencies, increased productivity and cost control, and maximizing cash flow.
The waste stripping bottleneck is now behind us and we expect stripping ratios to steadily improve towards the end of the calendar year, enabling improved access to high value, south lobe ore.” She said. The announcement by Lucara follows a week after government wholly owned diamond sales outfit Okavango Diamond announced the recovery of a rare blue diamond unearthed in Debswana Orapa Mine, adjacent to Lucara’s Karowe.
Banking on Your Terms: Exploring the World of Self-Service Banking
In today’s digital age, banking is no longer just about visiting a branch during business hours. It’s about putting you, the customer, in the driver’s seat of your financial journey. But what exactly is self-service banking, and how do you stand to benefit from it as a customer?
Self-service banking is all about giving you the power to manage your finances on your terms. Whether you want to check your account balance at midnight, transfer money while on vacation, or deposit cash without waiting in line, self-service banking makes it possible. It’s like having a virtual branch at your fingertips, ready to assist you 24/7.
This shift towards self-service banking was catalyzed by various factors but it became easily accessible and accepted during the COVID-19 pandemic. People of all ages found themselves turning to digital channels out of necessity, and they discovered the freedom and flexibility it offers.
Anyone with a bank account and access to the internet or a smartphone can now bank anywhere and anytime. Whether you’re a tech-savvy millennial or someone who’s less comfortable with technology, you as the customer have the opportunity to manage your finances independently through online banking portal or downloading your bank’s mobile app. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, with features like biometric authentication to ensure your transactions are secure.
Speaking of security, you might wonder how safe self-service banking really is. Banks invest heavily in encryption and other security measures to protect your information. In addition to that, features like real-time fraud detection and AI-powered risk management add an extra layer of protection.
Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the catch? Does self-service banking come with a cost?” The good news is that for the most part, it’s free. Banks offer these digital services as part of their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, some transactions, like wire transfers or expedited bill payments, may incur a small service fee.
At Bank Gaborone, our electronic channels offer a plethora of services around the clock to cater to your banking requirements. This includes our Mobile App, which doesn’t require data access for Orange and Mascom users. We also have e-Pula Internet Banking portal, available at https://www.bankgaborone.co.bw as well as Tobetsa Mobile Banking which is accessible via *187*247#. Our ATMs also offer the flexibility of allowing you to deposit, withdraw cash, and more.
With self-service banking, you have the reins of your financial affairs, accessible from the comfort of your home, workplace, or while you’re on the move. So why wait? Take control of your finances today with self-service banking.
Duduetsang Chappelle-Molloy is Head: Marketing and Corporate Communication Services
Botswana records over P6 billion trade deficit
Botswana has recently recorded a significant trade deficit of over P6 billion. This trade deficit, which occurred in November 2023, follows another deficit of P4.7 billion recorded in October of the same year. These figures, released by Statistics Botswana, highlight a decline in export revenues as the main cause of the trade deficit.
In November 2023, Botswana’s total export revenues amounted to P2.9 billion, a decrease of 24.3 percent from the previous month. Diamonds, a major contributor to Botswana’s exports, experienced a significant decline of 44.1 percent during this period. This decline in diamond exports played a significant role in the overall decrease in export revenues. However, diamonds still remained the leading export commodity group, contributing 44.2 percent to export revenues. Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed, contributing 25.8 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.
Asia emerged as the leading export market for Botswana, receiving exports worth P1.18 billion in November 2023. The United Arab Emirates, China, and Hong Kong were the top destinations within Asia, receiving 18.6 percent, 14.2 percent, and 3.8 percent of total exports, respectively. Diamonds and Copper were the major commodity groups exported to Asia.
The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) received Botswana’s exports worth P685.7 million, with South Africa being the main recipient within SACU. The European Union (EU) received exports worth P463.2 million, primarily through Belgium. Australia received exports worth P290 million, while the United States received exports valued at P69.6 million, mostly composed of diamonds.
On the import side, Botswana imported goods worth P9.5 billion in November 2023, representing an increase of 11.2 percent from the previous month. The increase in imports was mainly driven by a rise in Diamonds and Chemicals & Rubber Products imports. Diamonds contributed 23.3 percent to total imports, followed by Fuel and Food, Beverages & Tobacco at 19.4 percent and 15.0 percent, respectively.
The SACU region was the top supplier of imports to Botswana, accounting for 77.7 percent of total imports. South Africa contributed the largest share at 57.2 percent, followed by Namibia at 20.0 percent. Imports from Asia accounted for 9.8 percent of total imports, with Diamonds, Machinery & Electrical Equipment, and Chemicals & Rubber Products being the major commodity groups imported. The EU supplied Botswana with imports worth 3.2 percent of total imports, primarily in the form of Machinery & Electrical Equipment, Diamonds, and Chemicals & Rubber Products.
Botswana’s recent trade deficit of over P6 billion highlights a decline in export revenues, particularly in the diamond sector. While Asia remains the leading export market for Botswana, the country heavily relies on imports from the SACU region, particularly South Africa. Addressing the trade deficit will require diversification of export markets and sectors, as well as efforts to promote domestic industries and reduce reliance on imports.
Business sector optimistic about 2024
The business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bank of Botswana (BoB). The survey collected information from businesses in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, and finance, among others. The results of the survey indicate that businesses expect trading conditions to improve in the first quarter of 2024 and remain favorable throughout the year.
The researchers found that firms anticipate improvements in investment, profitability, and goods and services exported in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter. These expectations, combined with anticipated growth in all sectors except construction and real estate, contribute to the overall confidence in business conditions. Furthermore, businesses expect further improvements in the first quarter of 2024 and throughout the entire year.
Confidence among domestic market-oriented firms may decline slightly in the first quarter of 2024, but overall optimism is expected to improve throughout the year, consistent with the anticipated domestic economic recovery. Firms in sectors such as mining, retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and finance are driving this confidence. Export-oriented firms also show increased optimism in the first quarter of 2024 and for the entire year.
All sectors, except agriculture, which remains neutral, are optimistic about the first quarter of 2024 and the year ending in December 2024. This optimism is likely supported by government interventions to support economic activity, including the two-year Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) and reforms aimed at improving the business environment. The anticipated improvement in profitability, goods and services exported, and business investment further contributes to the positive outlook.
Firms expect lending rates and borrowing volumes to increase in the 12-month period ending in December 2024. This increase in borrowing is consistent with the expected rise in investment, inventories, and goods and services exported. Firms anticipate that domestic economic performance will improve during this period. Domestic-oriented firms perceive access to credit from commercial banks in Botswana to be relaxed, while export-oriented firms prefer to borrow from South Africa.
During the fourth quarter of 2023, firms faced high cost pressures due to increased input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport, resulting from supply constraints related to conflicts in Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas. According to the survey report, the firms noted that cost pressures during the fourth quarter of 2023 were high, mainly attributable to increase in some input costs, such as materials, utilities, and transport arising from supply constraints related to the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas wars. â€śHowever, firmsâ€™ expectations about domestic inflation decreased, compared to the previous survey, and have remained within the Bankâ€™s 3 â€“ 6 percent objective range, averaging 5.4 percent for 2023 and 5.4 percent for 2024. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is good for maintenance of price stability,â€ť reads the survey report in part.
However, firms’ expectations about domestic inflation decreased compared to the previous survey, and inflation expectations remained within the Bank’s objective range of 3-6 percent. This suggests that inflation expectations are well anchored, which is beneficial for maintaining price stability.
In terms of challenges, most firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, manufacturing, construction, and finance sectors considered the exchange rate of the Pula to be unfavorable to their business operations. This is mainly because these firms import raw materials from South Africa and would prefer a stronger Pula against the South African rand. Additionally, firms in the retail, accommodation, transport, and mining sectors cited other challenges, including supply constraints from conflicts in Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas, as well as new citizen economic empowerment policies that some firms considered unfavorable to foreign direct investment.
On the positive side, firms highlighted factors such as adequate water and electricity supply, a favorable political climate, an effective regulatory framework, the availability of skilled labor, and domestic and international demand as supportive to doing business in Botswana during the fourth quarter of 2023.
Overall, the business sector in Botswana is optimistic about the year 2024. The anticipated improvements in trading conditions, supported by government interventions and reforms, are expected to drive growth and profitability in various sectors. While challenges exist, businesses remain confident in the potential for economic recovery and expansion.