Lucara Diamond Corp. said it has secured $220 million in financing to help take the Karowe Mine in Botswana underground and extend its life by about 20 years.
Karowe is responsible for producing some of the most significant diamonds recovered in recent years, including the 1,109-carat “Lesedi La Rona,” which Graff bought for $53 million, and a 1,758-carat diamond that Louis Vuitton is turning into jewelry.
The credit-approved senior debt facilities include two tranches: $170 million to go toward the development of the underground mine and $50 million to support the ongoing operation of the open pit.
The underground expansion has an estimated capital cost of $514 million and is expected to take five years. The balance of development capital for the project is expected to come from cash flow from the mine’s ongoing open-pit operations.
In a statement announcing the financing, Lucara President and CEO Eira Thomas called securing the financing “an important achievement for Lucara and a strong endorsement of our underground expansion plans.”
She said the loans will supplement the cash flow from the open-pit portion of Karowe for the next five years and will extend the life of the mine from 2025 to at least 2040.
The five lenders on the $220 million financing facility for Lucara are: ING Bank N.V., Natixis, the London branch of Societe Generale, Africa Finance Corp., and Afreximbank. Thomas described them as having “significant mining and metals track records and experience in Africa.”
Closing on the facilities is subject to completion of definitive documentation and the satisfaction of certain terms and conditions, including Know Your Customer (KYC) checks.
The target closing date for the financing package is mid-2021, with financing expected to be in place by the second half of the year.
Lucara made the financing announcement the day before it released its first-quarter 2021 results.
Revenues totaled $53.1 million, or $579 per carat sold, for the miner in Q1. Net income was $3.4 million.
That is a significant improvement over Q1 2020, when the onset of the pandemic limited sales to $34.1 million and caused Lucara to record a loss of $3.2 million.
First-quarter 2021 results also are up when compared with 2019, when Lucara reported revenues of $48.7 million, or $512 per carat sold. Net income for the latter, however, was higher at $7.4 million.
The company said overall, the diamond market started 2021 in its healthiest position in five years following strong holiday seasons in the United States and China, and careful rough supply management by producers, which has helped to recalibrate polished inventories.