Canadian conceived diamond outfit, Lucara Diamond Corporation through its subsidy Lucara Botswana is assessing the possibility of taking the underground mining route at its flagship diamond resource in Boteti district.
The Botswana Stock Exchange listed company is a leading independent producer of large exceptional quality Type IIa diamonds from its 100% owned Karowe Mine located in the Boteti district. Lucara hinted this possibility in their 2018 Quarter 3 released this week. 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.
Eira Thomas, President and Chief Executive of Lucara shared that during Q3 2018, an updated Open Pit Mineral Reserve was declared and a National Instrument 43-101 Technical Report was filed. 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% of in situ carats at 1.00 mm bottom cut off size,” explained Thomas. She further shared that, “These new results are being used for mine planning and to support the preparation of current feasibility-level studies for the potential development of an underground mine, after the completion of the current open pit mine.”
2018 Q3 PERFORMANCE
On the side of financial performance for the 3 month period ended September 30th Lucara registered flat figures in comparison to 2017 Quarter 3. The company achieved revenues of $45.7 million or $450 per carat for its sales in the third quarter, yielding an operating margin of 59% during the period. Included in the Q3 2018 revenue are proceeds of $3.9 million from the June RST which were received in July 2018.
The third quarter of 2018 saw Lucara host its first blended tender process in which both regular and exceptional diamonds, recovered in the period May-August, were sold achieving an average price per carat of $467 from the sale of 89,461 carats compared to Q3 2017 figure of 64,289 carats signaling a 39% increase in the number of carats sold as compared to the same quarter last year. Lucara Executives observe that overall lower revenues reflect natural variability in the number and quality of exceptional diamonds recovered in any quarter.
Lucara sold the historic tennis ball size Lesedi Larona during the third quarter of 2017 recognizing revenue of $53 million ($47,777 per carat). The increase in the number of carats available for sale in the September tender follows commissioning of the sub-middles circuit in Q3 2017 and increased efficiency in diamond recovery in the smaller sizes during 2018. The number of carats recovered in Q3 2018 (127,031 carats) was more than double the number of carats recovered in Q3 2017 (62,425 carats).
In Q3, Lucara also began setting aside diamonds in the one to fifteen carat size range in the better colors and qualities, for sale on Clara, Lucara’s secure digital rough diamond sales platform. The removal of these diamonds from traditional tender sales will have an impact on the overall achieved average sales price, however, these differences will be captured and reconciled in the results reported through Clara. The inaugural sale on Clara is planned and tracking on schedule to take place later in November, 2018.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”