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Mothae Mine suspends operations

. . . negotiates with govt to sell diamonds without tendering

 

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU– Mothae Diamond Mine has suspended its operations while negotiating with the Ministry of Mining to allow it to sell diamonds to one of the mine’s shareholders, LUCAPA, for five years without following a tendering procedure.

Tendering is a normal procedure in international markets.

LUCAPA owns 70% shares in Mothae Diamond Mine while Lesotho Government holds a 30% stake.

This was revealed by Minister of Mining Serialong Qoo at a press briefing this week. He said the mine also requested Ministry of Mining to allow it to seek other markets for diamonds, to postpone the mine’s payment of royalties from March 2020 to April 2021 and to postpone payment of ground rent for the year 2020 to be only paid in 2021.

The requests came after the mine failed to sell its diamonds to its main market in Antwerp (Belgium) because the market is still closed due to COVID-19.

Responding to the requests, Qoo said the Ministry of Mining agreed on postponing payment of royalties and seeking new market but refused to postpone payment of ground rent.

However, there had been allegations that the mine has been closed after the ministry of mining rejected it’s appeal to the ministry to review the agreement the two parties had on the sale of diamonds.

Qoo said the allegations are not true, clarifying that on the 30th March, Mothae Diamond Mine requested his ministry to postpone its payment of royalties from March 2020 to April 2021, to postpone ground rent for the year 2020 to 2021, and requested that they be allowed to seek more market for diamonds since their main market, Antwerp (Belgium) is still closed due COVID-19.

He said the ministry responded to the requests on 28 May approving the mine’s request to postpone payment of royalties to 2021 and to seek new markets for Lesotho diamonds.

But the ministry rejected the mine’s request to postpone payment of ground rent, he added.

Qoo said after responding to the mine’s requests, the mine returned to the ministry with a new request to sell diamonds to LUCAPA for five years without following a tendering process.

“Since this was the first request of its kind, the ministry advised itself not to rush into any decision but rather consult other stakeholders, including those in the mining sector to be able to make an informed decision.

“The public is therefore informed that the ministry is working together with other concerned stakeholders to ensure that operations at the Mine resume, however, in a way that will benefit Basotho while also ensuring that jobs are secured,” he said.

He noted that negotiations between the ministry and the mine are still ongoing.

 

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