THE 910 carat diamond that was recovered at Letšeng Diamond Mine in Mokhotlong in January this year, was this week sold for a staggering US$40 million (M520 million) at an auction in Antwerp in Belgium.
The identity of the buyer of the gem which has been christened the ‘Lesotho Legend’ was not disclosed.
However, Letseng Diamonds’ majority shareholder, Gem Diamonds, said the impressive revenue fetched by the diamond demonstrates its exceptional quality and that of the mine itself.
“Gem Diamonds Limited is pleased to announce that the exceptional quality 910 carat D colour Type IIa diamond recovered from the Letšeng Mine in January 2018 achieved a price of US$40 million on tender in Antwerp on 12 March 2018,” Gem Diamonds said in a statement, adding, “Reflecting its significance, the diamond, which is the fifth largest gem quality diamond ever recovered, has been named ‘The Lesotho Legend’”.
Gem Diamonds’ Chief Executive Officer, Clifford Elphick, said they “are delighted with the outcome of the sale of this iconic diamond, which demonstrates the exceptional quality of The Lesotho Legend itself, as well as reaffirming the unique quality of the Letšeng Diamond production”.
The latest sale will further boost Gem Diamonds’ revenues after the company reported significant multi-million dollar gains in the past few months.
A recent trading update by Gem Diamonds detailing the company’s operational and sales performance for the period from 1 October 2017 to 31 December 2017 (fourth quarter) shows that the company moved to a net cash position of US$ 1.4 million.
This represented “a US$ 13.2 million improvement from the third quarter 2017 net debt position of US$ 11.8 million,” the company said.
The strong performance was achieved on the back of significant diamond finds during 2017 including seven gem quality diamonds greater than 100 carats of which the largest was a 202.16 carat Type IIa diamond, recovered in November.
“Thirty eight diamonds sold for more than US$ 1 million each, generating revenue of US$ 94.8 million during 2017,” Gem Diamonds revealed in its trading update, adding, “This is an improvement on 2016 where 34 diamonds sold for more than US$ 1 million each, generating revenue of US$ 73.7 million”.
Commenting on the fourth quarter results, Mr Elphick said, “It was also pleasing to see carats sold during the (fourth quarter) period up by 21 percent over the previous (third quarter) period”.
Meanwhile, Hlalele Hlalele, the Social Justice and Socio-economic Rights officer at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), said it was high time the government “got serious” about moving away from exporting Lesotho diamonds in their raw state to beneficiation if it wanted to tackle the issue of high unemployment in the country and maximise on returns for its gems.
“As country we have a big challenge of unemployment on our hands and if we could start processing the diamonds locally, we would create a number of jobs and also significantly increase the benefits from our diamonds.
“By exporting our diamonds in their raw state, we are effectively creating jobs for the countries where the diamonds will be processed,” Mr Hlalele said.
He said further said it was also important for the nation to know how much of the revenue from the diamond sales went to the government which holds 30 percent shares in the Letseng Mine. Gem Diamonds, a British firm, owns 70 percent of Letšeng Diamonds.
Mr Hlalele also implored the Ministry of Mining and parliament to ensure that the diamonds benefit the local communities in the vicinity of the mine.
“We still have a big challenge where villages next to the mine have not experienced any notable improvements courtesy of the mine and the TRC would be happy to see such issues being resolved,” he said.