Debswana’s Letlhakane opencast mine will be closed this year, but the 500 workers there will keep their jobs as the company will switch production to a tailings plant.
Managing director, Balisi Bonyongo told stakeholders in Gaborone this week that the 42-year-old mine will come to the end of its lifespan this month and the company will shift production to mining dumps.
“The project will provide a specifically designed mining and treatment solution to ensure optimal economic recovery of the Letlhakane coarse tailings mineral resource.
We have invested P2.1 billion into a tailings plant, which is expected to mine about 800,000 carats over 20 years from the dumps. With the new recovery technologies, we are seeing mining of these dumps as a viable business opportunity,” he said.
The new tailings plant is expected to be commissioned before June this year.
Figures released on Monday by Anglo American, which owns 85% of De Beers show that Debswana’s production dropped by a marginal three percent to 5.2 million carats in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
Letlhakane produced 130,000 carats during the first quarter of 2017.
Debswana, which is jointly owned by the Botswana government and De Beers, owns three other diamond mines in Botswana, one of which was placed under care and maintenance at the beginning of 2016.
Meanwhile, Bonyongo announced that Debswana has started processing ore from its Cut 8 Project at Jwaneng.
The Cut 8, which Debswana embarked on in 2010, is meant to uncover 100 million carats of diamonds and extend the mine life of the world’s richest diamond mine by seven years to 2024.
Bonyongo said 88% of the targeted 500 million tonnes of waste had been stripped by
“Cut 8 is on track to meet its objectives and ore from the mine expansion project is now being delivered to the main treatment plant,” he said.
Jwaneng was mining to a depth of 330 metres in 2010 when the project started and Cut 8 is expected to reach 650 metres at the completion next year.
The Cut 8 Project involves the widening and deepening of the existing Jwaneng pit as a short-term alternative to going underground.
Beyond Cut 8, Debswana is expected to embark on Cut 9, which was expected to extend Jwaneng mine’s lifespan from 2024 to 2032.
Debswana recently floated adverts inviting companies for pre-qualification for a tender to carry out mining works at the Jwaneng Cut 9 Project.
However, Bonyongo said they have not yet finalised on the next expansion phase after Cut 8.
“The decision to go ahead with Cut 9 has not been made yet. The advert in the papers is meant to gauge the level of interest in contract mining for Cut 9. This information is required as part of ongoing Cut 9 studies to determine the timelines, production targets, and costs for Cut 9,” he said.
Thanks to new exploration and recovery technologies, the life span of Debswana mines is now expected to stretch up to 2050 from an initial forecast of 2030.
Bonyongo said Debswana would this year produce around the 20.5 million carats dug up last year or slightly more as the company continues with its strategy of producing to demand.