Lucara Diamond Corporation has recorded an impressive and improved performance with 0.76 million tonnes ore in its Karowe mine during the first quarter of 2019 and the first sales of the year exceeded US$ 47 million.
The company also recovered an unbroken 1,758 carat diamond which is larger than the 1.109 world’s second largest diamond, Lesedi La Rona, which was recovered from Karowe in 2015. During the period the company sold several diamonds larger than 10.8 carats which resulted in quarterly sales revenue of $48.7 million compared to $25.4 million in the same period last year.Lucara President and Chief Executive Officer, Eira Thomas, highlighted that they expect the total stones mined in 2019 to be between 8.5 and 11.8million tonnes.
“While guidance is unchanged, the average strip ratio is now expected to be lower than originally anticipated due to a higher percentage of ore mined during the first quarter of 2019,” she said.
The operating cost for three -months period was 30.52 per tonne, a decrease from $39.97 per tonne in the first quarter of 2018. Thomas explained that operating cash cost per tonne processed was positively impacted by a reduction in waste mined and an increase in tonnes processed during the first quarter.
“Lucara’s focus on operational excellence has delivered another strong quarter, having met guidance with respect to ore mined and processed as well as carats produced. Costs were significantly down quarter over quarter in line with expectations,” said Thomas.
She pointed out that in 2019 the company forecasts revenue between $170 million and $200 million, consistent with the forecast for 2018. In 2019, diamonds recovered are expected to be between 300 000 carats and 330 000 carats and diamonds sold are expected to be between 300 000 and 320 000 carats. The company has approved a budget of $14.8 million evaluating the potential for an underground mining operation at Karowe. “In 2019 efforts will focus on follow up geotechnical and hydro geological drilling and related studies. Exploration expenditures are estimated to be up to $3.0 million”.
Botswana Railways hit by fuel theft
Botswana Railways lost fuel business due to continuous incidents of stolen fuel from the tanks and delays mainly at Mafikeng, in the north Western side of South Africa.
Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer Leonard Makwinja said, during 2017/2018, their biggest failure was in this area. “Our biggest failure in this aspect was on imports, transporting of fuel from South Africa proved to be a challenge.
There have been incidents of fuel loss on tankers, sometimes a delay in Mafikeng when trains changed and when it arrives in Botswana the tank would be half empty, “said Makwinja. He said this was worsened by allegations that road transportation was cheaper. Currently, they have employed a fuel consultant to look into the whole fuel transportation. “We believe a solution will be found soon.”
The BR Chief explained they heavily rely on the relationship with Transnet to successfully execute its freight mandate. Most of the imports through rail come from South Africa and the main export through rail which is salt and soda ash is transported from Botash to Mafikeng. “Going onwards we have to depend on Transnet for connections to the respective destinations. Our strategic plan going forward is to improve our services to the oil companies so that we are more reliable, timely and profitable.”
During the period, Makwinja said they had to focus on cost containment. The main cost drivers are staff cost, fuel and maintenance of the locomotives. In his statement on Botswana Railways 2018 annual report, Makwinja said the organization’s performance was subdued due to lack of capacity to meet the demand. “In terms of tonnage, our target was 2 million tons but we only achieved 1, 5 million tons. This adverse variance can be attributed to a number of factors including lack of sufficient locomotives and practicing conservative business initiatives and marketing,” he said.
Calls to improve crop yields with technology
Greenhouse Technologies managing director, Amanda Masire has urged entrepreneurs to venture into agriculture as it is a lucrative business and more beneficial to the national economic development, despite climate change challenges.
Speaking to Business Trends, Masire said there is a need for more training and knowledge on modern agriculture technologies for the country to have sustainable food production. “I am passionate about agriculture and food production. I want to help my country to produce food for itself and reduce dependency on imports. I have learnt that despite all the challenges of climate change, we can still produce our own food through the use of modern technologies,” said Masire.
Masire is an agri-business developer, specializing in horticulture, beekeeping and fish farming. She currently operates Greenhouse Farmers Academy offering training and mentorship on horticulture farming. “Agriculture is the most lucrative business that young people should be looking into. Currently, we depend much on South Africa. We should rise up and develop the sector because as Batswana we have rich land that we are not utilising.” Her services include horticulture starter kit, which includes business plans, lessons, fertilisers and all equipments necessary for a particular horticulture project.
She is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security to develop the ISPAAD Program. She said government would embrace modern farming technologies to improve food production. “Most Batswana have lands which they are currently not ploughing because of climate change conditions while the government gives out fertilizers and seeds every year to subsistence farmers yet there is no yield. I have come up with solutions, which include testing soil and supplying lime treatment to reduce acidity. This will help improve crop yield when adopted with other technologies,” she said.
Speaking during Stanbic Lionness Lean In Africa, Masire said with the challenges in the agriculture sector, Batswana should stop looking much into the problems and getting discouraged but should rather think of solutions. “Government is trying but we individuals also need to be innovative and assist government in improving food security. Young people should take opportunity of the agri-business market and reduce unemployment,” said Masire.
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