Debswana Diamond Company, the mining joint venture between the Government of the Republic of Botswana and De Beers Group said the Debswana Board green-lighted the commencement of the Jwaneng Underground Project’s crucial phase, which is the Exploration Access Development.
The Jwaneng Underground Project is implemented in four phases; Early Works (which started in 2022); Exploration Access Development, Phase 1 Mining and Phase 2 Mining. The Board’s approval for the second phase marks a significant milestone, initiating the journey towards underground mining at Jwaneng Mine, with this Exploration Access Development phase scheduled to commence in May 2024 at a cost of P13.6 Billion.
Early Works, that is, the ongoing preparatory phase, sets the stage for essential infrastructure deployment ahead of the underground development, encompassing critical initiatives such as assembling the underground mine rescue team and reinforcing safety measures. The Exploration Access Development phase aims to achieve two primary objectives. Firstly, to establish a drilling platform facilitating comprehensive sampling and evaluation of the kimberlite pipes via diamond extraction at 1,000 metres below ground level. Secondly, this phase lays the groundwork for Phase 1 Mining, forming the essential backbone infrastructure for the forthcoming stages of the project. The Exploration Access will be developed by an Underground Development Contractor.
Emmah Peloetletse, Permanent Secretary to the President and Debswana Board Chairperson, emphasised the strategic approach adopted by the project, highlighting that, “the phased implementation strategy ensures the uninterrupted evolution of Jwaneng Mine beyond Cut 9, presently projected to conclude in 2033. What is important to underscore is that this Board approval, and commencement of such work that progresses developments to the underground phase, is not only a significant milestone for the company but is also a momentous occasion for our nation and shareholders as it sets a longer-term future for Debswana. The future prosperity of Debswana hinges upon the progression of the Jwaneng Underground Project. With approximately 70 percent of Debswana’s profits and distributions attributable to Jwaneng, extending its Life of Mine beyond 2033 is pivotal for sustaining contributions to the shareholders.”
De Beers Group CEO and Debswana Deputy Board Chairperson, Al Cook, expressed the importance of this decision, stating that, “Jwaneng stands proudly as the world’s greatest diamond mine and is a central pillar of both the Botswana economy and the De Beers Group’s business. Investing in underground operations is therefore fundamentally important to the future of Botswana as a nation, to the long-term ambitions of the De Beers Group, and to the supply outlook for the global diamond industry. We are proud to work in partnership with the Botswana Government as we progress this crucial first phase of investment to develop this outstanding operation in support of a bright future for Debswana.”
Since 1982 when Jwaneng Mine started operating, it has produced 443.06 million carats, which translates to an annual average of 10.8 million carats. Currently, the mine employs 2,100 employees and 3,200 contractors.
Debswana conducted feasibility studies that sought to evaluate various viable underground mining alternatives in order to recover maximum value from the remaining resources below Cut 9, and produce diamonds at a steady state from 2034, sustain production and distributions to shareholders. The studies indicated that mining Cut 10 as an open pit would not be economically viable. The studies further indicated reserves for Phase 1 mining and that mining Phase 1 as an Underground Mine will be economically viable. Study work on Phase 2 (indicated resource) can only be concluded once more information is gathered from the planned drilling and bulk sampling that will be done as part of the Exploration Access Development.
Andrew Motsomi, Managing Director of Debswana, added: “The studies conducted and ultimately approved by the Board presented options of a realistic, modern, viable underground mine based on latest proven technology, novel mining engineering approaches, and safe underground mine designs and practices. This is a major achievement under our current business strategy.
The current strategy that ends at the end of 2024, has focused on transformation and transitioning the mines, and business as a whole, for a sustainably successful future. Beyond 2024, the business intends to set the stage for further growth to boost shareholder returns, which will help our national development. Debswana is also preparing its own employees to obtain future skills required for these developments. We aim to continue mining safely, sustainably, ethically and optimally.”
Debswana said it remains steadfast in its dedication to responsible mining practices, economic sustainability, and contributing to Botswana’s continued growth and prosperity.