Letlhakane diamond mine shuts down

20 Nov 2016

The Letlhakane open pit mine, which is owned by De Beers Mining Company through Debswana Mining Company, has come to the end of its economic life, Minister of Resources, Green Technology and Energy Sadique Kebonang has told parliament. 

Kebonang, who was responding to a parliamentary question from Boteti East Member legislature Setlhomo Lelatisitswe, said that a decision was then taken to shut it down and replace it by tailings dump treatment resources. 

Insiders within Debswana noted early last week that an exploration project to evaluate the economic potential of the Letlhakane Mine Tailings Dump also known as Letlhakane Mine Coarse Tailings Mineral Resource has been carried. 

According to the insider – who is close to the project, the most viable method of continuing operations at Letlhakane Mine had been found to be the mining of the Letlhakane Mine Tailing Dump through the re-processing of rock material discarded on the dump after the diamonds had been extracted in the Treatment Plant.

On Wednesday, Kebonang told parliament that the tailings dump treatment plant will be commissioned during the first half of 2017. 

The diamond pits at Letlhakane mine have reached depths that limit conventional open pit mining, forcing the mine management to initiate the tailings treatment project in October 2011 as a way of alleviating job losses and ensuring future sustainability. 

Meanwhile Debswana is said to be engaged in technical studies whose intentions is to look into pushing the Orapa and Damtshaa mines operations beyond the projected 2050 lifespan. 

The Debswana owned mine, which was put on care and maintenance because of weak demand for diamonds last year, will be opened immediately after the diamond markets recovers. The mine was put on care and maintenance beginning January 2016 because of deterioration in the diamond markets as result of unprecedented slow movement of diamond inventory throughout the entire pipeline.

At the time, about 12 contractors were engaged by Debswana operate at Damtshaa mine, four of which are joint ventures between locals and foreigners while the other eight are wholly citizen owned. 

However Kebonang warned on Wednesday that mine life is typically not a fixed number of years. 

“It is subject to change as more resources are delineated, measured and added to existing resources, and it changes as mining rates change as well as the economics of the mining operations at any given time”, Kebonang said. 

Other mines in the Boteti region which include Karowe Mine – known for producing exceptional stones is expected to convert from open pit to underground if it proven economically viable. The mine, which is owned by Boteti Mining Company, had resources fro 11 – 13 years from 2012 as an open pit mine depending on the production rate. 

Another mine, BK 11 had resources for 9 years of mining at a time of licensing in 2010; the mine however is still under care and maintenance.