Following board approval of new project to prolong the life span of Jwaneng mine last year, works have started at Cut 8, the mine officials revealed this week.
The much hyped project will extend the life of the mine by another 7 years at the world’s largest gem producer.
“We are starting the initial waste mining. Phase 1 mining is just about to start and then move to Phase 2 in 2011,” explained Rodgers Thusi, the mine’s Technical Services Manager.
It is expected that Cut 8, which follows on 6 and 7, will determine the future of Jwaneng as it goes forward and restore the mine’s profitability as it was in the past.
About 713 million tones of waste will be removed between 2010-2016 that will expose 75 million tones of diamond bearing ore and, therefore, extend the life of the mine by at least seven more years from 2017-2024.
Jwaneng is currently mining at Cut 6 moving towards 7.
Thusi told Sunday Standard that some old infrastructure like Inpit Crusher and Conveyers supplying ore to the plant will pave way for Cut 8 project although the processing plant will remain.
Debswana has committed to put P24 million into the development of the project with shareholders expected to inject over P3 billion over.
This will be the biggest investment from shareholders that include Botswana government and De Beers (50/50) since the discovery of the mine in 1982.
About 1700 contractors will be involved during the development of the project although the town has seen influx of migrants since the announcement of the project late last year.
“It is a widely publicised project; to many people, it means there is an opportunity for employment. People come and they try their luck. There is some employment, but not for everyone,” said Thusi.
Jwaneng Mine is the richest mine among the Debswana stable of mines and boosts of low production cost against its peers across the world.
The cost per tonne in Botswana is about US $ 8 per tonne while in other major diamond producing countries, such as Russia, it costs about US $ 45 per tonne.
In September 2008, the mine’s General Manager, Balisi Bonyongo, told a breakfast seminar that they are further looking at going beyond cut eight.
“The question is: can we go beyond cut eight?
“Beyond 2024, we will still be having the resource to mine, but the thing is whether it is going to be open pit or underground,” he said.
The extension of the mine to cut eight will bring business opportunities to the township but the mine will be faced with a raft of challenges that will have to be confronted before 2010.
Jwaneng is the world’s richest mine and any move to go underground soon will have some adverse impact on the global diamond industry as there are very few mines in the world with gem quality that it has.
Further, it would change the landscape in the diamond business where Botswana has always been regarded as the low cost diamond mining production to a high cost operation.