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Diamond miner progresses move to underground

MOVING BELOW GROUND Debswana Diamond Company is undertaking an expansion project at its Jwaneng mine to extend the mine's life

KOOLATOTSE KOOLATOTSE The Jwaneng Underground Project will contribute to local infrastructure development, employment creation and technological advancement

24th May 2024

By: Nadine Ramdass

Creamer Media Writer

     

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Ahead of its fifty-fifth anniversary, Botswana-based diamond miner Debswana Diamond Company is undertaking an expansion project at its flagship Jwaneng mine, in the south-central part of Botswana, to extend its life-of-mine and generate new value for shareholders, says Debswana deputy MD Koolatotse Koolatotse.

The Jwaneng Underground Project aims to develop a safe and viable underground mine to sustain production of diamonds beyond openpit operations.

Debswana informs Mining Weekly that the Jwaneng underground mine will be strategically developed to ensure there is no production gap between the end of operations at the Cut 9 openpit, and the mine’s transition to underground operations.

The Jwaneng Underground Project is evaluating various technologies – such as autonomous machinery, digital twinning, three-dimensional mapping and augmented reality – to enhance safety, efficiency and sustainability, thereby positioning the mine as a future-proofed, smart connected mine, says Koolatotse.

In terms of progress made, Koolatotse says early works at the Jwaneng underground site are in progress, including all preparatory works required to support the development of the Exploration Access to the underground portion of the mine.

Preparatory works encompass the development of highwall support works at Bench 19 in-pit portal area, and contractor infrastructure such as workshops, equipment assembly pads, lamp rooms, change rooms, offices, and various utilities and services such as water, electricity, compressed air and communications. In addition, these works also involve the refurbishment of a contractors’ camp.

The underground Exploration Access will be developed from the Bench-19 in-pit portal and will facilitate gathering of geoscience information from an underground drilling platform to enable upgrading of the mineral resource at depth, he says.

Further, the Exploration Access will expedite the establishment of the backbone infrastructure upon which Phase 1 of the underground mine will be developed.

The execution of the Exploration Access is planned to start this month.

The first phase of the underground mine, expected to start in 2027, will focus on extracting resources remaining after the Cut-9 pit closes, while Phase 2, envisioned to start in the mid-2030s, will extend the mine’s life by about ten years from the end of the Phase 1 underground mine.

Studies for the Phase 1 underground mine are ongoing, concurrently with the Exploration Access study.

Expected to generate new value for shareholders, the Jwaneng Underground Project will contribute to local infrastructure development, employment creation and technological advancement, thereby enhancing workforce skills, enthuses Koolatotse.

The project will develop a modern underground mine anchored in Debswana’s ‘One Dream, One Team’ strategic pillar, which focuses on safety, environmental responsibility, skilled workforce development, sustainable communities, innovation and technology, and high efficiency processes.

Studies are currently under way to determine what steady-state production performance will range between.

Beyond the Horizon
While Debswana’s Jwaneng, Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines focus on sustaining current operations, the company’s Horizon Two projects focus on leading with essential sustainability projects aimed at extending the lifespan of Debswana’s mines, explains Koolatotse.

“In the face of aging infrastructure, deepening mining sites, and declining revenues, Horizon Two projects are actively exploring strategies to maintain profitability while efficiently using remaining resources,” he says, adding that during the current horizon planning phase, Debswana has made significant progress in various capital projects that are instrumental in securing Debswana’s future.

In addition to the Jwaneng Underground Project, several other projects are also in various stages of development, including the Cut 3 Project, which aims to sustain ongoing operations and prolong the life of the Orapa openpit mine, says Koolatotse.

The Orapa Cut 3 Project entails redesigning and expanding the existing pit to enable the extraction of ore beyond Cut 2.

Orapa will continue to play a pivotal role in Debswana’s overall production through Cut 3, and subsequently, through Cut 4 or the transition to underground mining.

Recently, the Orapa Cut 3 Project progressed to the feasibility stage, he notes.

“Debswana is dedicated to maintaining its position as a world-class diamond mining company, with a strong commitment to harnessing Botswana’s natural resources for the betterment of the nation and its shareholders,” concludes Koolatotse.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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