Firestone Diamonds has initiated early works for construction of its 75% owned Liqhobong diamond mine in Lesotho, southern Africa, following completion of project financing in May. Construction of the mine is expected to take 24 months, with nameplate mine production of 300,000 mt/month scheduled to be reached during first half of 2016.

The Liqhobong project has more than 11 million carats of diamonds in reserve. The open-pit resource contains more than 17 million carats to 393 m below surface. The mine plan calls for open-pit mining down to 393 m over a period of 15 years.

Processing will be based on a straight-forward flowsheet that includes scrubbing, screening, crushing and concentration through two processing streams to yield about 1.1 million carats/y.

Total capital required to develop the Liqhobong project, including power, is budgeted at $185 million.

Firestone operated a pilot plant at Liqhobong from July 2011 to October 2013, producing more than 325,000 carats. The pilot operation confirmed the quality, grade, and size of stones and clarified the characteristics of the orebody. A definitive feasibility study was completed in October 2012 and updated in October 2013.