Records tumble for diamond miner Lucapa

LUCAPA Diamond Company reaped record revenues and gemstone production from its African mines during 2021, however investments in plant and equipment repairs mean its earnings were slightly less than anticipated. 
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Continuous miner trials at Mothae

Haydn Black

Reporter

Attributable revenue for the year A$65 million, with Lulo in Angola and Mothae in Lesotho setting records for volumes processed, carats recovered and gems sold.
 
A record 24,595ct were recovered from Lulo for the full year, while Mothae produced 32,470ct.
 
Lucapa also reported a record dividend from Lulo for the December quarter of $14 million, and with a $14 million loan repayment linked to the 40%-owned Sociedade Mineira Do Lulo approved, the miner is set to repatriate $19 million cash.
 
However, with ramped up exploration late in the year, and crusher foundation repair and improvements brought forward at Mothae, EBITDA is expected to fall short of the $26-28 million guidance, to $21-23 million.
 
The miner ended the year with cash and receivables of around $29 million, and with Mothae operating at full capacity from December, Lucapa expects big things in 2022 given the strong outlook for diamonds.
 
And that is before it commences production from the Merlin operation in the Northern Territory. 
 
The newly acquired asset, with resources of 4.4Mct, looked promising at its recent scoping study, and the feasibility study continues. Merlin is expected to generate earnings of some $50 million per annum.
 
A standalone kimberlite bulk sampling plant at Lulo is also due for commissioning end of March. 
 
Given its sampling last quarter delivered the highest number of diamonds recovered from any kimberlite sampled in the Canguige catchment, with eight of the 13 stones being rare Type IIa diamonds, there are reasons to anticipate higher Lulo production later in the year.
 
Managing director Stephen Wetherall said kimberlite bulk samples could finally be processed without relying on allocating processing capacity from the alluvial operations - which were already processing volumes up substantially compared to 2020, enough to help offset reduced trades.  
 
Wetherall said diamond prices across the board have risen due to curtailed rough production during the pandemic, a rebound in US demand, and a growing emerging market demand.
 
Given Lucapa's operational improvements, he said Lucapa was well placed to benefit in 2022.
 
Lucapa shares, which have traded at 4.5-10.3c over the past year, were last traded at 8.5c, valuing it at $108 million.