Drought of large diamonds ends in Lesotho, as Canadian firms ponders developing fancy yellow mines, and Namibia’s offshore searches now paying off. Diamond miners are encouraged by new sources of high-end stones.
Due to the tough terrain – the whole country is above 1,000 metres and Letseng is the world’s highest mine at an altitude of 3,100m – mining firms have been reluctant to venture there. But as the government seeks to boost its economy through diamond production, four new mines were announced last year.
Since April, the country has produced five exceptional stones, including two yellow diamonds – the smallest an 80ct, D-colour Type II and the largest a 126ct, D-colour Type IIa. Type IIa diamonds are the purest and most expensive due to their great transparency owing to the absence of nitrogen molecules that cause yellow or brown tints.
They form only 1 to 2 per cent of all uncovered diamonds and command a 5 to 15 per cent premium.
These finds allayed fears of a drought of large stones after Letseng’s boom in 2015, when three diamonds, each of about 300 carats were found in a year.
Lebohang Thotanyana, Lesotho’s mining minister, told Mining Weekly last year the country aimed to be a leading diamond producer and was improving its legal framework to meet international standards in environmental protection and health and safety to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry. “We want to increase Lesotho’s diamond production from its current 350,000 carats per year to about 1.5 million carats a year over the next two years,” he said.