Diamond mineral explorers holding ground around the country have given up hope of finding a Jwaneng Mine-sized resource and are now focussing on smaller discoveries.
Discovered in 1972, Jwaneng is one of the world’s richest mines by value, producing up to 15 million carats per year, the bulk of the country and De Beers’ production.
From Jwaneng, the other significant discoveries have included the Lerala Diamond Mine, Ghaghoo and Karowe, many of them the result of fresh exploration on sites identified decades before by major explorers such as De Beers.
With most of the major discoveries already found and funding growing scarce for general mineral explorers, the size of the search for new diamonds has shrunk over the years to a handful of firms.
Pangolin, Tsodilo, Botswana Diamonds (BOD) and De Beers are the four most active, while the balance holding prospecting licences around the country are largely dormant.
Leon Daniels, a veteran geologist who has searched for diamonds in Botswana for 39 years, discovering his first diamond-bearing rock at age 21, said chances were slim another Jwaneng was hiding under the country’s soils.“I don’t think there are large mines to be found any more and in future, the majority of those to be found will be small mines fitting into 50 hectares or less,” he told the recent Resource Sector conference.
“The law needs to be changed to include diamonds under mineral permits, because the discoveries are going to be of the 50 hectare and below size.
“Back in the day, the kimberlite (diamond-bearing rock) was obvious from aeromagnetic maps, but not any more.
“There are no red flags and the obvious ones have been found and now we follow targets on the ground with the hope of finding something real.”
Daniel said his company, Pangolin Diamonds, had spent P60 million in the past 11 years exploring for diamonds.
BOD managing director, James Campbell said the lack of funding for diamond exploration was a further impediment to the discovery of any significant sites.
“Two years ago, I was very happy celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Orapa and this year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Debswana.
“Where will we be in 50 years time?
“There is little or no local money going into diamond exploration,” he said. De Beers, which has led diamond exploration in Botswana for decades, was focussed on an area around Tsabong three years ago, but is yet to publicly update on what it has found.
According to De Beers’ records, a total of 329 kimberlites have been discovered in Botswana with 55% of these discovered by De Beers.
De Beers says it invested P3.5 billion in exploration in Botswana between 1955 and 2015, discovering seven mines in total.
Since then, the diamond giant has trimmed down both its budget and the number of sites it is targeting.