StockMarketWire.com - Shares in African Consolidated Resources [LON:AFCR] after it revealed it is exploring a number of highly prospective options to broaden its portfolio and geographic focus.

The company said trial mining activities at its 100%-owned Pickstone-Peerless gold project in Zimbabwea - which has a current JORC compliant resource of 3.2 million ounces at an average grade of over 2.7g/t of gold - had started.

It said that following the successful preliminary economic study announced on 4 December as the first phase of its bankable feasibility study, the company is now progressing phase two of this study with the commissioning of a small trial mining exercise to support the recommendations of its appointed consultants, PDNA Minxcon.

Careful siting of the trial mining pit will likely ensure that the mining and processing will not be a financial burden and may generate a marginal profit.

The company says the information gathered from this exercise will have immeasurable benefits for the technical team and the quality of the feasibility study.

Chief executive Craig Hutton said: "The Pickstone-Peerless mine in Kadoma province, Zimbabwe, offers one of the most exciting gold opportunities in southern Africa. The initiation of the trial mining is a confirmation of the company's commitment to value from its world class assets as it repositions and shifts to becoming a mining and project development company.

"The company is at the same time exploring a number of highly prospective options to broaden the ACR portfolio and geographic focus to create a truly international resource development company."

Gemfields [LON:GEM] was another riser after it revealed that the quarter to the end of December saw the highest production figure (of 6.6 million carats) achieved to date during the rainy season (3.9 million carats in the quarter to 31 December 2011).

Grade for the quarter was 288 carats per tonne (222 carats per tonne in the quarter to 31 December 2011).

Chief executive Ian Harebottle said: "Gemfields is very pleased to report another healthy quarter. Gemstone carats produced increased 69% compared to the same quarter last year and, for the half year, we are 65% ahead of where we were last year.

"When combined with the robust auction results in November, our emerald business remains a solid platform and continues to support our ongoing growth.

"Development of the significant Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique is progressing well, and we look forward to integrating Fabergé into the Gemfields family and we intend to update the market on the progress made as part of our interim results, which are expected in March 2013."

Highland Gold Mining's [LON:HGM] production rose by 18% to a record 216,885 oz of gold and gold equivalents in 2012 as output from the Mnogovershinnoye, Novoshirokinskoye and Belaya Gora mines exceeded guidance.

The group says construction of the Belaya Gora processing facility continues to make good progress with commissioning expected in the first quarter and production of first gold scheduled for April.

Exploration results at Blagodatnoye indicate good potential for new contributions to the company's resource base and production for this year (MNV, Novo and Belaya Gora) is forecast to be in the range of 225,000 - 240,000 oz of gold and gold equivalents.

Higher ilmenite prices more than offset lower production and Kenmare Resources' [LON:KMR] revenues rose 40% to $234.5m in 2012.

Average ilmenite prices realised were 98% higher in 2012 and were up 17% in the second half compared with the first six months of the year.

Average prices for primary zircon products increased in 2012 by 9% compared with 2011, but dropped by 32% in the second half of 2012 compared with the first half year.

Product volumes shipped in 2012 declined by 7% compared with 2011, resulting from reduced production levels.

Total production of heavy mineral concentrate for 2012 was 772,300 tonnes.

Finished product volumes for the year were: 574,500 tonnes of ilmenite and 46,900 tonnes of zircon (including 20,000 tonnes of a secondary zircon product).

680,800 tonnes of finished products were shipped in 2012, compared with 730,400 tonnes in 2011.

Antofagasta's [LON:ANTO] group copper production in 2012 was 709,600 tonnes, a 10.8% increase compared with 640,500 tonnes in 2011.

This was mainly due to higher production at Esperanza as a result of increased throughput levels.

Copper production was 193,800 tonnes in the fourth quarter, a 7.8% increase compared with the previous quarter, mainly due to increased production at Los Pelambres and Esperanza.

Gold production was 299,900 ounces in 2012 compared with 196,800 ounces in the 2011 full year reflecting the higher throughput at Esperanza.

Molybdenum production at Los Pelambres was 12,200 tonnes in the 2012 full year compared with 9,900 tonnes in 2011 reflecting the particularly high molybdenum grades in the current year.

The sector's biggest faller was Baobab Resources [LON:BAO] - down by nearly 10% in late afternoon trading.

At 4:10pm:
[LON:AFCR] share price was +0.26p at 4.38p
[LON:AMI] American Investment Trust share price was -7.37p at 298.88p
[LON:ANTO] Antofagasta share price was -107.5p at 1167.5p
[LON:AQP] Aquarius Platinum share price was +0.5p at 63p
[LON:BEM] share price was +0.01p at 14.38p
[LON:BKY] share price was 0p at 28.75p
[LON:CEY] Centamin Egypt Ld share price was +1.98p at 54.88p
[LON:CHL] share price was +0.03p at 9.28p
[LON:CZA] share price was +0.13p at 22.88p
[LON:FDI] Firestone Diamonds share price was +0.13p at 3.38p
[LON:FRES] share price was +15.5p at 1681.5p
[LON:GEM] share price was +1p at 27.5p
[LON:GEMD] share price was -2.87p at 157.13p
[LON:HGM] Highland Gold Mining share price was -0.62p at 112.13p
[LON:HOC] share price was +2.95p at 431.15p
[LON:KMR] Kenmare Resources share price was -0.67p at 33.02p
[LON:VED] Vedanta Resources share price was -21.5p at 1164.5p


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