By Brecken Branstrator
London--During a year that saw the market for both rough and polished diamonds constrained, Gem Diamonds’ revenue for the full year ended Dec. 31 fell 8 percent year-over-year, decreasing from $270.8 million to $249.5 million.

However, profit for the company was up 12 percent, reaching $67.4 million. Cash on hand at the end of the year was $86 million.

In 2015, Gem Diamonds’ mined approximately 200,000 carats of diamonds, up from 119,000 in 2014.

The Letšeng mine in the Kingdom of Lesotho recovered 108,579 carats last year, flat compared with 2014.

Eleven stones larger than 100 carats were recovered from Letšeng during the year, a new record for the mine, according to Gem Diamonds. The largest unearthed at the site in 2015 was a 357-carat Type IIa diamond that sold for $19.3 million, the highest dollar value ever achieved for a single Letšeng stone.

Prices for rough from Letšeng remained resilient during 2015, achieving an average of $2,299 per carat for the year. Thirty-six rough diamonds sold for more than $1 million each.

The company completed the Plant 2 Phase 1 upgrade at the Letšeng mine in March 2015, increasing capacity by 250,000 tons per year. It also approved an optimized life-of-mine plan last May, enhancing the mine’s net present value through optimized waste stripping and higher-grade, higher-value ore being mined, and completed construction of the Coarse Recovery Plant, designed to improve diamond recovery.

At its Ghaghoo mine in Botswana, Gem Diamonds recovered 91,499 carats last year.

The company also started selling its first parcels of diamonds from the site in February 2015. The company sold 89,107 carats of Ghaghoo diamonds during the year, achieving $14.4 million and an average per-carat price of $162.

Focus on 2016 will be on the restructuring of Ghaghoo, Gem Diamonds said, with priority given to cost optimization and a reduction in cash consumption. Expansion opportunities in terms of increasing production also will be reviewed once market conditions improve sufficiently.

In the short term, the downward pressure on both rough and polished prices in the diamond market will remain a challenge, especially for the more commercial Ghaghoo operation, the company said.

The prices for Letšeng diamonds are “expected to remain resilient during a continued uncertain and difficult short-term period facing the global diamond market.”

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