After the milestone relocation of the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) from London to Gaborone last year, Botswana has continued to make strides in strengthening its diamond production and beneficiation capacity. The latest notable development was the official launch of the Ghaghoo Diamond Mine, located in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), by President Ian Khama on Friday.
The mine, with a total resource of 20.53 million carats, is 100 per cent owned by Gem Diamonds Limited, a UK-listed company. In 2007, Gem Diamonds acquired the Gope kimberlite deposit from Gope Exploration Company, a joint venture between De Beers and Xstrata, for US$34.1 million. The Gope deposit had been inactive for a number of years following completion of a feasibility study.
“We competed with a few other companies for the asset but we won after the final analysis. We started this project at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. It was a difficult time for mining companies, especially small mining companies,” Gem Diamonds’ Chief Executive Officer, Clifford Elphick recalled during a media briefing held in Gaborone a day before the official opening of the mine.
Elphick noted that the mine was planned to be built in phases and the first phase is the one that was opened on Friday, having cost over P1 billion to construct.
“What we have achieved is extremely significant,” he said.
The first phase will confirm diamond grades and prices and test different processing techniques.
Production will be ramped up in the second phase while the third phase will focus on achieving steady life of mine production.
While the main aim is to make profits, Elphick said they also pay attention to the impact the mining activities have on people and the environment in the vicinity of the mine. To minimise adverse impact on the environment, Elphick said they were able to divert from the initial plan of having an open pit mine to the current underground one.
He also revealed that the company will have its first diamond sales somewhere between now and prior to the end of the year.
“We hope the market remains strong. Government has requested us to market the diamonds locally before going outside the country,” he said.
The Ghaghoo mine is estimated to produce 250, 000 – 300, 000 carats in 2015. At the current mining rate, the mine’s lifespan is expected to run for the next 30 years or more. Gem Diamonds Botswana holds a 25-year mining licence.
When officially opening the mine on Friday, President Khama said the occasion marked yet another important milestone in government’s quest to transform Botswana into a mining powerhouse and a world diamond centre. He said the opening of the mine will increase the supply of rough diamonds available for trading in Botswana over and above those from Debswana and De Beers operations around the world.
“I am optimistic that this new development will advance Botswana’s transformation journey of becoming a destination of choice for access to rough and polished diamonds, as well as finished diamond products,” he said.
Khama said Botswana’s aspirations are to see more diamond activities, especially those that add value, taking place in the country.
“Sales are certainly a first step in that direction, however, our preferred end stage is to see the whole value chain, with its attendant benefits of creating various opportunities for our people, taking place in the country,” he said.