Lucara Diamond has received a diamond mining lease for the Mothae project in Lesotho, a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa.

The lease has been granted by the Lesotho Department of Natural Resources for an initial ten-year term and is renewable for another ten years.

Under the mining agreement, Lucara will hold a 75% stake in the Mothae project with the government holding the remaining interest.

During the first pre-production test mining phase, 4% of the sales value of diamonds produced from Mothae will be payable to the government. At full production the royalty will increase to 8% of the sales value of diamonds.

Lucara president and COO William Lamb said the licence is a major step forward for the project.

“Having secured the mining lease, we can now move forward with plans for pre-production test mining which are designed to increase our confidence in the economic potential of the Mothae kimberlite through the validation of diamond grade and value information that was generated in the recently completed bulk sampling programme,” Lamb said.

Mothae, with an 8.8ha surface area and low grade kimberlite, has a considerable amount of large, high-value Type IIa diamonds, the company said.

Bulk sample data, as well as geologic modelling work and preliminary delineation drilling, has led to an estimated in situ grade potential ranging from three and four carats per hundred tonnes and an estimated tonnage potential ranging from 25 to 35 million tonnes.

Lucara will mine a maximum of 720,000t of kimberlite from the Mothae kimberlite’s upper weathered zone over a two-year period.