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Trade News - Diamonds-USA.com
  Sunday, September 16, 2007   
 

Letseng Mine Claims 18th Largest Diamond Ever Found


Gem Diamonds Limited has recovered a 494 carat diamond from its Letseng Mine in Lesotho, the company said, claiming that the stone ranks 18th among the largest rough diamonds ever found.

The find comes just over a year after the company recovered the ‘Lesotho Promise’ in August 2006, weighing in at 603 carats as the 15th largest diamond mined, and which sold for $12.4 million.

Gem said its latest discovery, which is yet to be named, had an excellent color and high clarity.

“We are delighted to have recovered two of the world’s largest diamonds ever in the last thirteen months,” said Gem Diamonds CEO Clifford Elphick. “This diamond is another remarkable find for the Letseng Mine, barely a year after the recovery of the Lesotho Promise and confirms the Letseng Mine’s reputation as the leading producer of large gem quality diamonds.”

Earlier this year, Gem also mined a 215 carat D-color flawless diamond at Letseng, which it sold on tender for $8.3 million.

Gem Diamonds owns 70 percent of Letseng in partnership with the Lesotho Government.

The company reported, in a separate statement - its first half year report, that sales from the Letseng mine grew 83 percent to $69 million in the first half of 2007. The tenders yielded an average $1,776 per carat in the first six months of 2007, compared to $1,244 in the year earlier period.

Letseng, which Gem bought in June 2006, made up for nearly all of the company’s revenues in the first half of 2007, while its operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia contributed a small percentage of sales which occurred towards the end of the period..

Total revenues for the first half of 2007 were $69.8 million, compared to zero in the same period a year earlier when Gem did not have any revenue generating mines. Cost of sales were $33.9 million. The company posted a net income of $16.3 million, compared to a net loss of $5.2 million a year earlier.

During the 2007 six month period, Gem undertook an aggressive acquisition strategy buying the Gope deposit in Botswana for $34 million, BDI Mining – with its Cempaka alluvial diamond mine in Indonesia - for $80.1 million, and having made a $263 million bid for Australia-based Kimberley Diamond Company, which awaits shareholder approval and is expected to close by the end of the year.

The company owns further projects in the DRC, Angola and the Central African Republic.

Having raised $635 million in a listing on the London Stock exchange in February 2007, Elphick told Rapaport earlier in the year, the company continues to seek further acquisition opportunities.

“Good progress has been made in executing Gem Diamonds’ strategy of creating shareholder value through considered acquisitions and the development of existing assets,” Elphick said in a statement. “Funds raised on the IPO have largely been spent or allocated to major capital projects. Our operations now also encompass Botswana, Indonesia and potentially Australia.”

“The Group’s diamond resource has been significantly increased over the period. As such these first six months form a solid base from which to achieve our ambition of becoming one of the world’s leading diamond companies,” he added.
 
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