Eira Thomas

Un­der the lead­er­ship of CEO Eira Thomas, Lu­cara Di­a­mond Corp. is us­ing tech­nol­ogy and fresh man­age­ment ideas to in­no­vate the di­a­mond in­dus­try.

CEO Magazine North America - - CONTENTS - BY AN­THONY MO­RAN

CEO, Lu­cara Di­a­mond Corp.

WHEN EIRA THOMAS was ap­pointed as CEO of Lu­cara Di­a­mond Corp. in Fe­bru­ary, it was a home­com­ing of sorts. Thomas, who boasts 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the min­ing in­dus­try and was pre­vi­ously CEO of Kam­i­nak Gold Corp., had not only served on the board of direc­tors of Lu­cara since 2012, but was also one of the founders of the com­pany.

“The CEO role at Lu­cara came along at the per­fect time in my ca­reer,” Thomas says. “Hav­ing sold my gold com­pany, I was look­ing for new op­por­tu­ni­ties. The out­go­ing CEO, Wil­liam Lamb, had made a de­ci­sion to re­tire, and it was an op­por­tu­nity to get more in­volved in the com­pany that I had helped found ten years ago.”

Lu­cara Di­a­mond Corp. is a di­a­mond ex­plo­ration and min­ing com­pany, es­tab­lished in Canada but which op­er­ates ex­clu­sively in Botswana through its Karowe mine, where, in Novem­ber 2015, the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, the world’s sec­ond largest gem-qual­ity di­a­mond ever dis­cov­ered, was ex­tracted. In 2017, the com­pany en­joyed rev­enues of over $220 mil­lion and is cur­rently look­ing to­wards both tech­nol­ogy and fresh man­age­ment ideas to take it­self for­ward.

With its re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Clara Di­a­mond So­lu­tions, for ex­am­ple, Lu­cara is look­ing to de­velop a se­cure, dig­i­tal, cloud-based sales plat­form for di­a­monds, which the com­pany hopes to roll out by the fourth quar­ter of this year and which Thomas be­lieves could be a game changer in the in­dus­try.

“Lu­cara is the world’s fore­most pro­ducer of large high-value gem-qual­ity di­a­monds,” Thomas ex­plained. “Karowe is a high-mar­gin mine, we have no debt, and the com­pany pays a healthy div­i­dend. Go­ing for­ward, we want to use this solid plat­form to ex­plore new av­enues for growth.”

BUILD­ING ON SUC­CESS

The Karowe mine, lo­cated in north-cen­tral Botswana in south­ern Africa on the fringe of the Kala­hari desert, is a hard rock, open-pit di­a­mond mine, 324 me­ters in depth, which is 100% owned by Lu­cara Di­a­mond Corp. and will op­er­ate un­til at least 2026. Yet while the project has al­ready reaped con­sid­er­able fruit, Thomas says the com­pany has plans to de­velop the mine even fur­ther, em­ploy­ing tech­nol­ogy that is at the cut­ting edge of the min­ing in­dus­try.

“We’re in the process of com­plet­ing a study ex­am­in­ing the po­ten­tial for ex­pand­ing the mine un­der­ground, to ex­tend its life from 2026 to 2036,” she ex­plained. “We com­pleted a pos­i­tive pre­lim­i­nary eco­nomic assess­ment in 2017 and launched a for­mal fea­si­bil­ity study ear­lier this year, which is ex­pected to com­plete in early 2019.”

Ac­cord­ing to Thomas, th­ese plans are un­fold­ing at a clip de­spite a num­ber of hur­dles the com­pany has faced over the past eigh­teen months, in­clud­ing equip­ment avail­abil­ity is­sues re­lated to the com­ple­tion of a ma­jor waste strip­ping cam­paign to ac­cess the ore body for open pit min­ing be­tween 2019 and 2026.

“Once we have com­pleted the waste re­moval cam­paign, our strip ra­tio will re­duce and our costs will go down, ul­ti­mately lead­ing to im­proved mar­gins for the re­main­ing open pit mine life.”

IN­NO­VA­TIVE MIN­ING

Lu­cara Di­a­mond Corp. is the first di­a­mond com­pany to in­cor­po­rate what is known as X-Ray Trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy (XRT), which per­mits a high pu­rity level in the sort­ing of ma­te­ri­als, ir­re­spec­tive of size, and which has en­abled Lu­cara to re­duce the value de­struc­tion of di­a­monds as they are mined, en­abling the com­pany to re­cover very large stones with­out break­ing them.

“Lu­cara and TOMRA for­ever changed the di­a­mond in­dus­try with the in­tro­duc­tion of TOMRA XRT so­lu­tions to re­place DMS and XRL pro­cesses,” said Ge­of­frey Mad­der­son, Di­a­mond Seg­ment Man­ager for TOMRA, a cru­cial part­ner of Lu­cara. “Af­ter the re­cov­ery of the 1109ct Le Sedi la Roni and 810ct Con­stel­la­tion,

our part­ner­ship forged a new gold stan­dard ap­proach that is now op­er­at­ing all around the world.”

“We’ve re­ally de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a leader in in­no­va­tion,” Thomas in­sisted.

“What also sets us apart is our ap­proach to fu­ture di­a­mond sales. Our aim is to start sell­ing di­a­monds through Clara Di­a­mond So­lu­tions, a se­cure, dig­i­tal, web-based plat­form that will use pro­pri­etary an­a­lyt­ics to­gether with ex­ist­ing cloud and blockchain tech­nolo­gies to sell di­a­monds in­di­vid­u­ally, rather than in batches and cre­ate as­sur­ance on di­a­mond prove­nance from mine to fi­nal re­tail sale.

“We’re very proud to be work­ing in Botswana. We look at the coun­try as our prin­ci­pal as­set.” EIRA THOMAS /CEO, Lu­cara Di­a­mond Corp.

Ac­cord­ing to Thomas, the re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Clara Di­a­mond So­lu­tions of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to mod­ern­ize a sup­ply chain which she con­sid­ers static and in­flex­i­ble and leads to losses across the en­tire di­a­mond pipeline. For the first time ever, man­u­fac­tur­ers will be able to pur­chase only the di­a­monds they want for the pol­ished they need, un­lock­ing value through­out the value chain and re­sult­ing in im­proved mar­gins for both buy­ers and sell­ers.

AN EN­DUR­ING RE­LA­TION­SHIP

Thomas is highly aware of the fact that the com­pany owes its suc­cess to the peo­ple of Botswana whom make up 95% of its work­force and with­out whom the suc­cess of the Karowe mine would be im­pos­si­ble, and the com­pany is ea­gerly look­ing to deepen its re­la­tion­ship with the coun­try.

Look­ing ahead, Lu­cara has also re­cently made some sig­nif­i­cant man­age­ment changes, one of which Thomas is es­pe­cially proud of—the ap­point­ment of Naseem Lahri, a Botswanan woman, as the man­ag­ing direc­tor of its sub­sidiary Lu­cara Botswana. “Naseem is the first Botswana women to serve as the man­ag­ing direc­tor of a di­a­mond mine in Botswana.,” she said.

“An­other key se­nior leader is Joe Mchive, our Gen­eral Man­ager at Karowe. Joe works hard to de­liver safe, re­li­able pro­duc­tion. To­gether Naseem and Joe work to max­i­mize op­por­tu­ni­ties in Coun­try, through the de­vel­op­ment of a strong lo­cal work­force and by procur­ing lo­cal sup­plies and work­ing closely with all of our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties of in­ter­est to sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses.

“We’re very proud to be work­ing in Botswana and would like to find ad­di­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties in coun­try to help us grow. Karowe is a unique, high mar­gin as­set and our job is to max­i­mize its value to our share­hold­ers and all of our lo­cal stake­hold­ers in Botswana.”

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