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ROUGH DIAMONDS

THE WORLD’S RICHEST DIAMOND MINE GETS A NEW LEASE ON LIFE

With global diamond production standing at a record high of 150 million carats per annum, in 2017 and 2018, reportedly eight of the largest diamond mining companies are planning to cut production by up to one third, in part to preserve existing deposits.

It is not demand for the diamond that is falling, on the contrary. But there have been no real major finds of new diamond deposits in recent years, and over the coming two decades a number of the world’s currently major producing mines are scheduled to reach the end of their productive lifespans.

Some have predicted that by 2030 diamond production could be down by 33 percent to 100 million carats per annum.

$1.2 BILLION CONTRACT AWARDED

Many may have breathed a sigh of relief, therefore, when Debswana Diamond Mining, a joint venture between De Beers and the government of Botswana, announced that had awarded CIMIC, a subsidiary of Thiess, the world’s largest mining services provider, a $1.2-billion contract to extend the lifespan of the Jwaneng mine.

Located in south-central Botswana, about 120 kilometers west of the capital city of Gaborone, Jwaneng is the world’s richest diamond resource.

An open pit mine, the mine produces 9.3 million tons per year of ore and an additional 37 million tons per year of waste rock, yielding an average of about 11 million carats per annum.

Employing more than 2,100 people, the mine also owns and operates a local hospital and an airport.

NEW PLAN WILL  EXTEND LIFE OF MINE BY 11 YEARS

Having begun operations in 1982, Jwaneng open currently about 650 meters deep. The new plan calls for the pit to be extended to a depth of 830 meters, which will allow operations to be extended for another 11 years beyond its current expected life span, to 2035, and allowing for the extraction of a further 53 million carats of rough diamonds.

Debswana will invest approximately $2 billion over the life of the project, and this includes removing waste from the bottom of the mine to both widen and deepen the pit.

“With global consumer demand for diamonds reaching record levels in 2018, the extension will enable us to continue to meet the needs of our consumers all over the world,” De Beers’ chairman Bruce Cleaver said in the statement.

This is not the first time Debswana put money into the expansion of Jwaneng, which contributes almost 70 percent of Debswana’s total revenue. Last November the company completed a $3-billion plan begin in 2007, which extended the mine’s working life to 2024.