Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Debswana says Scannex best tech to detect theft

The Botswana Mine Workers (BMWU) has raised serious objections to the introduction of Scannex machinery at Debswana operations, citing medical grounds. But the company insists that the new security project is the best deterrent to would be diamond smugglers.

Debswana has always been concerned about theft of stones and other company property in the face of limitations within the company’s camera surveillance and access management systems.

Dr Adrian Gale, General Manager of Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines, said there is need for increased sophistication to combat theft because even the smallest diamond could be worth millions. The most common method used to smuggle diamonds out of the mines has been to
hide the stones in the buttocks, under the scrotum and underwear.

“This is a way of combating such theft. It’s the best technology and it’s readily available. We need to find ways to protect our resource,” said Gale.

BMWU has raised concerns that radiation from Scannex could be dangerous to employees and visitors. However, Debswana insists that a team of experts have given the project the green light and a clean bill of health. The company is only awaiting approval from the Department of Environmental Affairs after been given conditional approval by the
Radiation Protection Board.

“After interactions with regulators, we agreed to protect pregnant women and they will not be scanned. However, they will be given alternative jobs during pregnancy,” Eunice Mpoloka, Senior Projects Manager revealed.

She said there will also be exclusions based on medical grounds. The required limits of allowed ionizing radiation dose has been set at
1 milli sievert for members of the public and 20 milli sievert to
workers. This means an individual is allowed 200 scanns annually. One
scan is measured at 0.006 milli sievert. It is argued this is less than radiation dosage used at airports and some medical facilities.

The project will cost about P50 million and will see 10 machines installed in Jwaneng, Orapa, Letlhakane, and Damtsha operations. The technology is already being used at Namdeb, the Namibia’s equivalent of Debswana and De Beers’ owned Venetia mine in South Africa’s Limpopo province.

De Beers said Scannex is a low dose X-ray scanner that can produce a
high-resolution digital image of the whole body of the person being
scanned in a safe and non-invasive manner and taking only 10 seconds
to produce a full-body scan. BMWU officials could not readily comment on Friday. However Debswana officials said the union has made it views known, raising concerns on health and occupational hazards if the project goes ahead. Jack Tlhagale was not available to represent the union. But
Debswana feel happy about consultations as the Change Management
programme for employees and contractors was launched in August, 2013.

Gale revealed unions have agreed there is a need for security and
searches. “I say this is the best way,” he said. Journalists visiting
the state of art Completely Automated Recovery Plant (CARP) in Orapa
mine were shocked at the frisking conducted on exiting the plant. CARP
handles ore from Orapa, Dantshaa and Letlhakane mines.

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