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DIAMONDS Building Lesotho’s next diamond mine For successful kimberlite developers and miners, it’s all about location and AIM-listed diamond junior Paragon Diamonds has planted its roots at the perfect address. Lesotho is recognised for producing the world’s largest and highest value diamonds and will soon host its next producing diamond mine and Paragon’s flagship project – Lemphane – situated only 26 km from the famous Let š eng mine, writes Laura Cornish. IN SHORT Paragon Diamonds’ Lemphane kimberlite project in Lesotho will lift the company’s status from explorer and developer to miner – and is expected to deliver some world-class large diamonds during its lifespan. “O f the top 20 diamonds in the world by size, a quarter of them have come from Lesotho, tracing back historically to the Let š eng diggings in the 1960s – a trend we expect Lemphane to follow,” says Paragon Diamonds’ executive chairman Martin Doyle. Lesotho kimberlite deposits are recognised for their low grades but high average diamond values which, Doyle adds, are unlikely to pose any difficulties for the company. The project will not have to contend with many of the typical mining challenges in the country, such as high waste-to- ore ratios, problematic water supply or waste rock disposal problems, despite being located 2 600 m above sea level in the Lesotho mountains. “To counter lower grades you need to have a big project (bigger than at least a 3 ha pipe area) capable of mining large volumes. There are only five large kimberlites in Lesotho and Lemphane is one of them, measuring 6 ha in total size,” Doyle continues. By way of comparison, most of Let š eng’s diamonds are currently being recovered from a 4 ha pipe while at Kao most production comes from a small 2 ha portion of a total 19 ha pipe. Up and running – this year Paragon Diamonds is the new diamond developer on the Lesotho block, having acquired the Lemphane project in June 2011 through its 85% purchase of local Lesotho subsidiary Meso Diamonds. In the space of Based on the 18 000 t sample completed last year Paragon Diamonds recovered 300 carats at an average grade of 2 cpht 14 MINING REVIEW AFRICA ISSUE 4 2014 just over two years the company has extensively sampled and drilled the project, completed a scoping study, been awarded a mining lease and is looking to take it into production in the third quarter of 2014, processing 0.5 Mtpa for an initial two years (Stage 1 mining). With the mining lease secured and the operating terms of the lease agreed, there are unlikely to be any causes for delay in meeting this target. Finance negotiations are also underway, with US$5 million of capital investment required initially. Based on the 18 000 t (15 000 t dry) sample completed last year, Paragon Diamonds recovered 300 carats at an average grade of 2 cpht and is estimating a final dollars per tonne value of over $30/t. Predictions are that 10% of total diamond production will be 10 carats or above in size with up to 0.5% of total production 100 carats or above, once mine capacity reaches a planned 3 Mtpa in Stage 2 mining. Drilling to date has demonstrated a resource of 48.6 Mt to a depth of