Dormant Damtshaa mine resurrects

Full mine operations expected by January 2018 Mine has been on care and maintenance since December 2015

After three years of operating under care and maintenance, the Debswana Damtshaa Diamond mine is scheduled to resume operations in January 2018.

Located about 20km east of the Orapa kimberlite pipe in Central Botswana, Damtshaa Mine laid-off over 200 of its employees in 2015, leaving a skeletal staff to look after the mine when it was under care and maintenance.

The re-opening of the mine, which has in the past contributed more than 31 million carats since it opened in 2003, presents micro-economic opportunities for the communities surrounding the mining town, which was eminently becoming a ghost town.

In 2014 alone, Damtshaa, being part of the part of the Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) extracted 3,800,849 tones of diamond- bearing ore, treated 1,464,100 tones and recovered 303,219 carats.

Speaking of the resurrection of the Damtshaa Mine at a recent media tour of the Orapa Mine and Letlhakane Mine Tailings Project (LMTP), OLDM General Manager, Bakani Motlhabani said although the operations had halted momentarily, the Damtshaa mine has a lifespan extending to 2034.

“We stopped operations because we could not sell the diamonds, it was not economical to keep on mining until the economy recovered,” he said.

Motlhabani added that Debswana believes they will get a good prize for their diamonds although the market is volatile and unpredictable.

“Right now the market is robust and hence the re-start of operations,” he said.

Debswana in 2015 confirmed that they had been experiencing a significant reduction in the sale of rough diamonds due to weak demand.

One of the biggest diamond miners in Africa attributed the decline in sales to a global macroeconomic slowdown and the strengthening of the US Dollar, which had put liquidity pressures on diamond cutting and polishing centres, which are the miner’s primary customers.

The General Manager also shed light on operations at the ongoing Letlhakane Tailings Project (LTP), where crushed diamond-bearing rocks accumulated since the opening of the Orapa Mine in 1971 are being re-crushed to extract more diamonds.

“The operation is way cheaper than the actual mining process where the rock is blasted and then hauled to the processing plant,” he said, explaining that LTP uses conveyor belts to get the ‘tailings’ from the near-by dumping site, where they have been collecting for the past 47 years, into the highly automated re-processing plant.

Giving a comparison of the diamonds extracted from the four Debswana mines, OLDM and the Jwaneng Mine located in the South-Central district of Botswana, Motlhabani highlighted that OLDM produces fewer volumes of diamonds of high quality while the opposite has been observed with the Jwaneng Mine.

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