Gem Diamonds, the junior diamond miner, punched- the- air Friday as government approved its environmental impact assessment study, bringing it closer to the approval of its diamond mining licence in Gope ÔÇö within the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).
“We are very pleased with this development as it brings us one step closer to realizing our ambition to develop a mine at Gope.
“This EIA would have been meaningless if we had not consulted widely with all interested and affected parties. We did this over a seven months period across 400 kilometers radius around the proposed site,” Haile Mphusu, Managing Director of Gope Exploration, which is a subsidiary of Gem Diamonds, said in a statement.
The diamond company already has ongoing operations in Australia, DRC, Indonesia, and Lesotho has filed a mining licence for the proposed mining licence in Gope.
“The development will be financed by a combination of cash and debt and discussions are ongoing with a number of banks in this regard,” the company said in a statement.
However, Gem Diamonds said it is still awaiting the outcome of its mining application as under section 51( of the Mining Act) they will have to enter into negotiations with the government of Botswana which will determine the key terms of the licence which are expected to commence in the third quarter of 2008.
If things go according to plan, the environmentally sensitive Gope Mine will be in full production by 2011.
Gem Diamonds has an eco-friendly mining programme at Letseng Mine in Lesotho, which happens to be its most profitable mine in its nine portfolio mines in the world.
“The mining construction should start early next year and we are confident that the mining licence will be issued within the next six to twelve months,” Mphusu told Sunday Standard early in the year.
Gope Mine is scheduled to produce about 1 million carats per annum with a life-span of 17 years, bolstering Botswana’s position as the premier diamond producer in the world.
“I think we are walking on a similar road with the government,” Clifford Elphick, the managing director of Gem Diamonds, has said.
“We have received overwhelming support that we were given during our consultation report with the stakeholders.
“We do have a background of operating in a sensitive area and we understand that we have to look after the environment,” Elphick said.
The Gope Mine operation is expected to be unique in the sense that people will have to spend about two weeks away from the camp and the rest with their families. The model is borrowed from two countries, Australia and Lesotho, where it has been in operation for some years.
“It is very appropriate to do that (in a sensitive area like) a game reserve,” he said.
As part of its expansion plan, Gem Diamonds has interest in three projects in the DRC, which are under exploration. The projects are in Mbelenge, Lubembe and Longatshimo and if they prove profitable, they will boost its other plans of extending its operations beyond mining.
It is currently planning to start the jewellery manufacturing in DubaiÔÇö an international diamond centre ÔÇö- in a bid to get into the downstream activities.
Gem Diamonds has put together 80 clients across the globe who are fighting for its gemstones at every auctionÔÇöa parallel system from that of De Beers.