GEM Diamonds elects to keep Letšeng mine open despite Lesotho Covid-19 lockdown

Letseng Diamond Mine

GEM Diamonds is to keep its Letšeng mine in Lesotho open despite a two-week lockdown announced by the southern African country’s president, Moeketsi Majoro, on Wednesday.

“The health and safety of all of our employees and contractors remains paramount to Gem Diamonds and we shall continue with the testing and precautionary measures which have been effective at Letšeng and our other operations during this pandemic,” said Clifford Elphick, CEO of GEM on Wednesday evening.

Lesotho earlier reported an increase in Covid-19 infections at its border post, rising from 100 per day to 800 which it said could be related to migrant mineworkers returning to work in South Africa, but nonetheless indicative of infection rates in the country.

Lucapa Diamond Corporation, which mines the Mothae operation in Lesotho, said it would suspend operations for the lockdown period. “The suspension is expected to be temporary in nature as it is a mine operational health and safety decision, not a market limitation,” said Lucapa Diamond MD, Stephen Wetherall.

GEM reported third quarter diamond recoveries from Letseng of some 29,127 carats, taking recoveries for the year to 72,403 carats. This puts it on course to beat last year’s production of some 84,207 carats. In September, GEM adjusted full year guidance to 96,000 to 100,000 carats which compares to earlier, pre-Covid-19 guidance that year of 118,000 to 122,000 carats.

Elphick said in September he detected promising signs in the diamond market after Covid-19 lockdowns globally had all but snuffed out diamond tenders.