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  Lets'eng Mine History
  • Lesotho's first diamonds were discovered in 1957. A small mining industry was established in the 1960s.

  • During the 1960s and 1970s, Lesotho's mines yielded several large gems, and the industry employed thousands of people.

  • During the 1980s, mining in Lesotho's Maluti Mountains ceased because of low world diamond prices and royalty disagreements between the government and mining companies.

  • The Lets'eng-la-TeraiKimberlite Pipes - the Main Pipe and the Satellite Pipe - were discovered in 1957 by Peter Nixon while he was working in the area.

  • The pipe was declared a government digging in 1959 and, by 1967, there were up to 6 000 local diggers on the site.

  • The pipes are estimated to have produced 63 000 carats during this time, including the 601-carat Lesotho Brown.

  • Rio Tinto Exploration (Pty) Ltd was awarded the exploration license for the pipes in 1968 and was tasked with a feasibility study to develop a full-scale mine.

  • Lesotho's government then asked De Beers to re-evaluate the kimberlites using the data collected by Rio Tinto. An agreement to mine was commissioned in December 1976.

  • The mine was officially opened in November 1977 and was scheduled to have a mine life of 8 years. The mine was closed after 5 years in 1982. The final production total was 272 840 carats, recovered from 9,4-million tonnes of kimberlite, mainly sourced from the Main Pipe.

  • Lets'eng Diamonds (Pty) Ltd (a Lesotho-registered company) was formed in 1995 as a partnership between industry investors (76 percent) and the Lesotho Government (24 percent).

  • The mining rights for the Lets'eng Mine were acquired by Lets'eng Diamonds (Pty) Ltd in 1999.

  • The reconstruction of the mine's infrastructure commenced in 2003. Production at the two alluvial deposits - the Qaqa River deposit associated with the Satellite Pipe and the Patiseng River deposit associated with the Main Pipe - started in November 2003. Production at the Satellite Pipe resumed in March 2004.

  • The 76 percent of Letseng Diamonds (Pty) Ltd owned by Lets'eng Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd was purchased by Gem Diamonds Limited (Gem Diamonds) in July 2006.

  • After the sale, 6 percent of the issued share capital of Lets'eng Diamonds (Pty) Ltd was transferred to the Lesotho Government. Lets'eng Diamonds (Pty) Ltd is now 70 percent owned by Gem Diamonds and 30 percent owned by the Lesotho Government.