Lucara bets on diamond market recovery, plans mine expansion

Karowe is one of the world’s most prolific sources of large, high value type IIA diamonds, becoming the only mine in recorded history to have produced two 1,000+ carat diamonds. (Image courtesy of Lucara Diamonds.)

Canada’s Lucara Diamond (TSX:LUC) doesn’t seem deterred by weak conditions affecting the market as it plans to boost sales returns by targeting higher grade areas of its Karowe mine in Botswana.

Delivering production guidance for 2020, the Vancouver-based miner says it expects to recover between 370,000 and 410,000 carats at Karowe next year and estimates an annual revenue of between $180 and $210 million.

“Anticipated cash flow from operations in 2020 should allow us to pursue early works which are critical to [Karowe’s] underground development schedule”

President and chief executive officer, Eira Thomas.

Lucara forecasts the income will come from selling “special” diamonds — 10.8 carats and larger, excluding truly unique finds such as the 1,109-carat Lesedi la Rona and the 813-carat Constellation.

“Building on the strong operating performance achieved in 2019, Lucara will continue to focus in 2020 on optimising the base business [and] growing our digital sales platform Clara Diamond Solutions by adding third-party production to the platform,” president and chief executive officer, Eira Thomas, said in a statement.

Lucara has set aside $53 million for early work related to the planned underground extension for Karowe, with a final investment decision to be made in the second half of next year.

Pre-production costs for the project, which would increase the operation’s productive life for 20 years until 2040, have been pegged at $514 million

The extension will allow Lucara to exploit the highest value part of the orebody first, generating over $5.25 billion in gross revenue.

The company expects to get its investment back in under three years. In the meantime, it has moved to preserving cash by suspending dividends for future quarters.

Karowe is one of the world’s most prolific sources of large, high value type IIA diamonds. Since beginning commercial operations in 2012, it has produced 2.5 million carats, becoming the only mine in recorded history to have produced two 1,000+ carat diamonds.

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