- Company is currently placing ventilation shafts
- Aims to start underground operation in 2026
Diamond mining company Lucara Diamond Botswana is getting closer to transitioning into its underground mine in Karowe from its current open pit operation which comes to an end in 2025.
Last week the company successfully placed the first section of a ventilation shaft headgear on the underground mine. Ventilation shafts, also known as airshafts or vent shafts, are vertical passages used in mines and tunnels to move fresh air underground and to remove stale air.
Commenting on the development during an interview with this publication, Botswana Managing Director Naseem Lahri explained: “This is one of the many milestones to be delivered in commissioning this project.”
Updating reporters at a press conference in Gaborone recently, the Manager of the underground mine project Leo Marumo said Lucara aims to fully operate the mine in 2026 and that these recent developments are edging it closer to that target.
Marumo added that the project is time-sensitive and is looking to breaching the end of life of the open pit mine with the start of the underground operation.
The ventilation shaft will be developed to 733 metres below surface while the main production shaft will be mined to a depth of 767 metres. The production shaft is the main mine work space.
Lucara has secured P6.2 billion for the project, which is expected to bring P47 billion in revenues while in operation until 2040. Marumo said 5.1 million carats are expected to be excavated from the mine where construction activities started in 2020 for production to start in 2026.
Marumo also added that the mining method for the underground project is a hybrid model or long whole shrinkage method that combines block caving and vertical crater retreat. “It’s a bottom-up approach,” he explained.
“We drive our developments all the way to the bottom, drift across to the kimberlite pipe, and then mine it going upwards until it reaches its economic limit.”
He noted that construction of the mine up to operation has different working phases with varying engagements of labour and skilled personnel. Though all employees currently involved at their ongoing open pit mine will be absorbed, the mine will not need a significant workforce once in full operation.
“Our mine is a very small footprint and as such we will have very limited working areas beyond the project development phase,” Marumo said. “From 2026 it is not going to be labour intensive, especially coupled with the technology that we are going to be using.”
Other works around the mine include a 28km powerline from Letlhakane to Karowe to provide 132 kilo volts of power to the mine.
Meanwhile, Lucara recently released its financial results, reporting revenues of just over $230.1 million. This is up by 84 percent compared to the previous financial results.
Managing Director Lahri attributed this performance to the ongoing recovery of the diamond industry in which Lucara has sold over 230 special diamonds.
A bulk of the company’s revenue was driven by its polished side of the business that it recently went into through a partnership with polishing company HB Antwerp that Lucara hopes to extend when it expires this year.