As it looks to expand its flagship Karowe diamond mine in Botswana, Vancouver-based Lucara Diamond (TSX, BSE: LUC) has completed a mandate for a senior secured financing package of up to $220 million with five lenders. The funds are intended for a five-year, $514 million underground expansion of Karowe that would extend the mine life out to 2040. The existing open pit operation is expected to wind down by 2025.
The mandate includes a non-binding term sheet; closing of the facilities is expected in mid-2021, for financing in the second half of 2021. Closing is subject to customary processes such as due diligence and final credit approvals.
“The mandating of five leading international financial institutions, with strong mining and metals track records and significant experience in Africa, for the arrangement of +$200 million senior debt facilities, is a significant achievement for Lucara,” Eira Thomas, Lucara president and CEO, said in a release.
“The interest of top tier financial institutions further validates Lucara’s reputation as a leading, high margin diamond producer, which has demonstrated resilience throughout the pandemic. Karowe is highly levered to strengthening diamond prices and is well positioned to take advantage of the current market, as we have observed prices recovering to pre-pandemic levels in early 2021.”
The executive also added that the Karowe open pit is expected to provide the remainder of the expansion capital during the mine development period. Due diligence is now underway.
In February, Lucara indicated that it would be looking to secure between $150 and $200 million in debt financing for the expansion.
According to a 2019 feasibility study, the stand-alone underground operations at Karowe are expected to generate an average of 392,000 rough cts. annually at an operating cost of $725 per recovered ct. The underground development would target the South Lobe kimberlite below the planned pit bottom, with access through a 765-metre production shaft.
Since its 2012 start-up, Karowe has been known for its large, high-quality diamond output.
Lucara is part of the Lundin Group.
(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)