Gemfields (AIM: GEM) announced the discovery of a 6,225 carat emerald at its Kagem mine in Zambia. The emerald was recovered during normal mining operations and it is currently being examined by Gemfields' experts to establish a clearer understanding of its value and significance.The exceptional emerald has been named ‘Insofu’, the indigenous Bemba word for elephant. "This is a unique find. The Insofu displays wonderful colour and good translucency. Its sheer size, rich colour and fine protective biotite shell make it difficult to see deep into the gem”, Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle commented. “However, all indications suggest that the core of the emerald is competent and that it should yield a number of cut gems of significant size".
Gemfields said it will continue to evaluate the exceptional 6,225 carat emerald before any final decision is taken in terms of its future. In the three months ended 31 December 2009, Gemfields’ Kagem mine produced emeralds and beryl averaging 365 carats per tonne, with overall quarterly production totalling 4.9 million carats.
So far, February has been a particularly positive month for Gemfields. Last week it announced the first production from Kagem’s underground mining trial. The milestone marks the first step in a transformational innovation for the Zambian emerald mining industry, Gemfields said.
The Zambian emerald mining industry has deployed only opencast mining techniques in the past involving high stripping ratios. For example, at the Kagem emerald mine, the stripping ratio typically exceeds 50:1 and approximately 1 gram of emerald and beryl is recovered for every tonne of rock handled. The company believes that underground mining can reduce rock handling requirements and allowing mining operations to follow the ore zone without the need to remove all of the surrounding rock.
Gemfields initiated the underground mining project in February 2009, and the trial aims at expanding the Kagem mine into areas of high quality emerald production, and enable the mining operation to follow the ore zone efficiently.
The shaft and tunnel system was designed, developed and constructed in-house, and is presently at a depth of 33 metres on dip. After just six months from the first blast, the first production of emerald and beryl gemstones was completed on 10 February 2010.
“If Gemfields' trial underground shaft proves successful, the model could be rolled out to access emerald ore bodies in multiple locations within the Kagem mine”, Harebottle stated. At Kagem several high quality production zones have been abandoned historically, due to the steep incline of the ore zone. These new underground emerald mining methods could enable that these projects become viable again, Gemfields said.
The company’s flagship Kagem mine covers an area of 43 sq km (square kilometres) with the license area hosting six known TMS belts with over 13 km (kilometre) strike length. In its half-year results for the period ended 31st December 2009, Gemfields reported US$7.2 million in cash and a gemstone inventory with an estimated value of at least US$9 million.
Disclosure: The author holds no positions in the company