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UPDATE - Stellar Diamonds to switch to fast-track Tongo development

US$20mln in funding to be sought from non-dilutive project debt structures as company readies licence application and new mine plan.
UPDATE - Stellar Diamonds to switch to fast-track Tongo development

-- adds company comment --

Stellar Diamonds (LON:STEL) plans to raise US$20mln in additional funding to fast-track its Tongo mine towards commercial production. 

The funds are expected to come from non-dilutive project debt structures and would support a licence application and new mine plan that uses existing data.

Philip Knowles, chief financial officer, said the focus now is combining all the data into a pre-feasibility type report, which would be sufficiently detailed to use to raise money.

“We feel we’ve got enough information to go to private equity firms and get a debt and equity package,” he told Proactive.

“This saves the 6-9 months of definitive feasibility study (DFS) work and the additional costs to get to that stage.”

Tongo has an inferred resource of 1.45 mln carats. 

Bulk sampling has been completed at the project, which is in Sierra Leone, despite the Ebola crisis.

A new study has also identified a technique to allow Stellar to mine from surface for three years while underground mine development is completed. 

In a statement today, chief executive Karl Smithson said the new method would boost the project’s economics.

“We intend to conduct an updated preliminary economic assessment, which should justify the decision to apply for a mine lease for the project during 2015”, he added.

The licence application will include an environmental impact assessment and the updating and combining of existing technical and mining reports, he added.

The company recently sold its first diamonds from the Baoule project in Guinea following the start there of trial mining.

Processing to date has yielded over 4,100 carats at a grade of over 13cpht, Smithson said.  

“We expect to continue the trial mining with an objective of at least 100,000 tonnes being processed in aggregate to establish the grade and value of the pipe with confidence, but importantly to recover some large, high value diamonds.” 

Stellar posted a loss of US$0.93mln (US$1.55mln) in the half year to December 2014.

Shares were little changed at 0.899p.

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