All thanks to Botswana’s Karowe mine diamonds, the latest forecast by BSE-listed Lucara Diamond Corp. shows a sparkling like polished diamond progression for this year with increase of sales, diamonds recovered, a swell in processed ore mining and tonnes processed and the bottleneck of waste is expected to decrease.
In the latest released forecast, diamond sales are expected to be 300,000 carats to 320,000 carats for 2019 compared to 270 000 carats to 290 000 carats in 2018. Diamonds recovered this year are expected to be seen at 300,000 carats to 330,000 carats.
While there are improvements in this year’s forecast, ore mining and tonnes processed are expected to match last year’s 2.5 million and 2.8 million tonnes. Diamond revenue for 2019 is expected to be at $170 million to $200 million (P1.7 billion to P2 billion) which also reflects last year’s prediction.
Dealing with waste stripping has always been a big bottleneck for Lucara’s Karowe mine and last year it was predicted that the mined waste would be between 13.0 to 16.0 tonnes. According to Lucara the Karowe mine did not enjoy an especially successful year in 2018 as costs overshot estimates and recoveries tended towards the lower end of the spectrum and this was owing to an increase in the amount of waste rock that had to be mined.
However on the positive, the waste decreased last year contrary to the predictions with waste mined during the three months ended in June 2018, which was the first quarter of 2018, totalled 4.4 million tonnes. The waste mined further shrunk during last year, going down to 4.4 million tonnes in the second quarter before falling to 3.9 million tonnes in the third quarter. This fall has influenced a positive forecast which predicts a fall of 6.0 million and 9.0 million tonnes, a far cry from the 2018 high waste levels.
“Our focus at Karowe in 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,” said Lucara President Eira Thomas when commenting on the fall in waste mining which is a positive development for production at the company’s mines.
For the 2019 outlook, the total operating cash costs per tonne processed (including (a) to (c) below): $32.00 to $37.00 (a) Cash cost per tonne mined (ore and waste) seen at $4.00 to $4.50 (b) Cash cost per tonne processed expected to be at $12.00 to $13.00 (c) Mine on-site departmental costs (security, technical services, mine planning safety and health, geology) per tonne processed to be at $5.00 to $6.00
Operating cash costs per tonne processed, excluding waste mined seen at $21.00 to $24.00. Botswana general & administrative expenses, including sales and marketing expenses, per tonne processed should be around $2.00 to $3.00 while the tax rate 22 percent to 29 percent. The average exchange rate in USD/Pula is expected to be at 10.5. It is further stated that based on 2019 revenue guidance of $170 million to $200 million and a budget of $14.8 million for the feasibility study as well as operating costs.
Furthermore, the expected tax rate is between 22 percent and 29 percent for 2019. According to Lucara a budget of $14.8 million (P148 million) has been approved to complete a feasibility study that was initiated in 2018, evaluating the potential for an underground mining operation at Karowe. The company says work undertaken in 2018 under a budget of approximately $29 million (P290 million) has significantly de-risked the project and in 2019, efforts will focus on follow up geotechnical and hydrogeological drilling and related studies. A comprehensive update on the underground project will be provided in early Q1, 2019, according to the company.
“Having stabilized and significantly improved our 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. In addition, we will continue to systematically ramp up diamond sales through Clara, our transformational, proprietary digital sales platform that successfully completed its first trial sale in December 2018,” said Thomas.
Lucara is a member of the Lundin Group of Companies and is listed on the TSX Exchange, Nasdaq Stockholm and the Botswana Stock Exchange under the symbol "LUC" and operates transparently, In its Karowe mine, Lucara is known to have discovered the world’s largest diamond, the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, which was later sold to Graff Diamonds for P530 million ($53 million).
The Clara factor
Lucara’s sales are boosted by Clara Diamond Solutions, a digital sales platform that uses proprietary analytics together with cloud and blockchain technologies to modernize the existing diamond supply chain, driving efficiencies, unlocking value and ensuring diamond provenance from mine to finger.
The company says it has successfully completed its inaugural diamond sale through Clara Diamond Solutions. Clara which is 100 percent owned by Lucara was launched in December 2018 and it is said to be in plans of the mining company ramping up in diamond sales this year. According to Lucara, analysis of results is ongoing and further details about this initial sale, as well as next steps for the Clara platform will be reported in January 2019.
According to the company, Lucara will be reporting sales through Clara quarterly, along with additional guidance, once the platform has moved into continuous sales. Lucara will continue to optimize its sales strategy through a combination of Clara and its regular tender process, said the mining company.
The future of Botswana’s largest copper and silver operation, Khoemacau Copper Mining, looks promising as the new owners, MMG Group, commit to the mine’s expansion plans. MMG, an Australian headquartered company owned by China, has expressed its dedication to doubling Khoemacau’s production and transforming it into one of the most significant high-grade copper operations in Africa.
Nan Wang, the Executive General Manager for Australia and Africa at MMG, stated that while the immediate focus is on maintaining a consistent production level of 60ktpa, there are solid plans to increase Khoemacau’s production capacity. The company aims to double its production from 3.65Mtpa to 8.15Mtpa, resulting in an increase in payable copper from approximately 60ktpa to around 130ktpa.
To achieve this expansion, Khoemacau has completed a pre-feasibility study on the project and a solar power initiative. The next step is to conduct a feasibility study, which will pave the way for increased production capacity. Additionally, Khoemacau has identified extensive exploration opportunities across its license area, positioning the company for an exciting new phase of development.
The current Khoemacau operation reached full production and nameplate capacity in December 2022, following over a decade of investment totaling over P10 billion. This significant investment allowed for an intense exploration program, resulting in the development of the most automated underground mining operation in Botswana. The first concentrate was produced in June 2021, and the product entered the export market in July of the same year. Throughout 2022, the company has been working on the pre-feasibility study for the expansion project, with the feasibility study scheduled for the following year.
The expansion plans will involve the construction of a new world-class process plant in Zone 5, where the current mining of ore takes place. This new plant will be larger than the existing one in Boseto, which currently receives ore from Zone 5. The expansion will also involve the development of new underground mines, including Mango, Zone 5 North, and Zeta North East. These additional mines will bring the total number of underground shafts at Khoemacau to six. The ramp-up of production from the expansion is expected to occur in 2026.
Khoemacau, which acquired assets in the Kalahari Copper Belt after the liquidation of Discovery Metals in 2015, currently employs over 1500 people, with the majority being Batswana. The Khoemacau Mine is located in north-west Botswana, in the emerging Kalahari Copperbelt. It boasts the 10th largest African Copper Mineral Resource by total contained copper metal and is one of the largest copper sedimentary systems in the world outside of the Central African Copperbelt.
The mine utilizes underground long hole stoping as its mining method and conventional sulphide flotation for processing. Resource drilling results have shown the existing resources to have continuity at depth, and there are several exploration targets within the tenement package that have the potential to extend the mine’s life or increase productivity.
The Zone 5 mine has already ramped up production, and further expansion in the next five years will be supported by the deposits in the Zone 5 Group. The estimated mine life is a minimum of 20 years, with the potential to extend beyond 30 years by tapping into other deposits within the tenement package.
In conclusion, the commitment of MMG Group to Khoemacau’s expansion plans signifies a bright future for Botswana’s largest copper and silver operation. With the completion of pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, as well as significant investments, Khoemacau is poised to become one of Africa’s most important high-grade copper operations. The expansion project will not only increase production capacity but also create new job opportunities and contribute to the economic growth of Botswana.
Khoemacau Copper Mining, a leading copper mining company, has recently announced its acquisition by MMG Limited, a global resources company based in Australia. This acquisition marks a significant milestone for both companies and demonstrates their commitment to continued investment, growth, and sustainability in the mining industry.
MMG Limited is a renowned mining company that operates copper and other base metals projects across four continents. With its headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, MMG has a strong track record in mining and exploration. The company currently operates several successful mines, including the Dugald River zinc mine and the Rosebery polymetallic mine in Australia, the Kinsevere copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Las Bambas Mine in Peru. MMG’s extensive experience and expertise in mining operations make it an ideal partner for Khoemacau.
MMG’s commitment to sustainability aligns perfectly with Khoemacau’s values and priorities. Khoemacau has always placed a strong emphasis on safety, health, community, and the environment. MMG shares this commitment and applies the principles of good corporate governance as set out in the Corporate Governance Code of the Hong Kong Listing Rules. As a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), MMG adheres to sustainable mining principles, ensuring responsible and ethical practices in all its operations.
Over the past 12 years, Khoemacau’s current shareholders have made significant investments in the development of the company. With approximately US$1 billion deployed in the project, Khoemacau has successfully transformed from an exploration and discovery phase to a fully-fledged operating copper mine. The completion of the ramp-up of the Zone 5/Boseto operations has set the stage for the next phase of expansion.
With the acquisition by MMG, Khoemacau is poised for an exciting new chapter in its development. The completion of a pre-feasibility study on the Khoemacau expansion and a solar power project has paved the way for increased production capacity. The feasibility study will be the next step in doubling the production capacity from 3.65 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) to 8.15 Mtpa, resulting in a significant increase in payable copper from approximately 60,000 tonnes per annum (ktpa) to 130,000 ktpa. Additionally, Khoemacau has extensive exploration opportunities across its license area, further enhancing its growth potential.
The CEO of Khoemacau, Johan Ferreira, expressed his gratitude to the current owners for their stewardship of the company and their successful transformation of Khoemacau into a fully operational copper mine. He also highlighted the company’s focus on the expansion study and its vision for the future with MMG. Ferreira emphasized that the partnership with MMG will ensure Khoemacau’s long-term success, delivering employment, community benefits, and economic development in Botswana.
MMG Chairman, Jiqing Xu, echoed Ferreira’s sentiments, stating that the acquisition of Khoemacau aligns with MMG’s growth strategy and vision. Xu emphasized MMG’s commitment to creating opportunities for all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, and communities. He expressed confidence in Khoemacau’s expansion potential and the company’s ability to realize its full potential with the support of MMG.
The sale of Khoemacau to MMG is subject to certain conditions precedent and approvals, with the expected closing date in the first half of 2024. This acquisition represents a significant step forward for both companies and reinforces their commitment to sustainable mining practices, responsible resource development, and long-term growth in the mining industry.
In conclusion, the acquisition of Khoemacau Copper Mining by MMG Limited signifies a new era of investment, growth, and sustainability in the mining industry. With MMG’s extensive experience and commitment to responsible mining practices, Khoemacau is well-positioned for future success. The partnership between the two companies will not only drive economic development but also ensure the safety and well-being of employees, benefit local communities, and contribute to the overall growth of Botswana’s mining sector.
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.