Jwaneng mine, the world’s largest gem diamond producer, is investigating the best route to take after Cut 8 matures with a new programme that is likely to take the operations to 2030.
The mine is involved in a new project that will take mine life to 2024 and there is talk in the mining circles of Cut 9 and 10 after which the mine’s open cast operations would have reached its peak.
The feasibility study will examine the economics of going underground after 2030 or go the Cut 9 route, which will lead to part of the dump site to be removed.
“It is early days. We need to have a decision around 2012 over Cut 9 versus underground,” Steve Axcell, General Manager-Projects Planning and Technical Services at Debswana, said.
“We are sunshine miners and we need the expertise (for underground mining),” he added.
De Beers and the Botswana government, the two shareholders of Debswana, have set aside P24 billion for Cut 8 that will make Jwaneng a world class mine and take it to a ‘super pit’ status.
Of that figure, P1.1 billion has been spent so far.
Cut 8 will prolong the mine life of Jwaneng to 2024 and secure 102 million more carats while Cut 9, which is at a prefeasibility stage, will take the mine to 2030.
Cut 9 will mean diamonds will be mined at a hole 850 metres deeper pushing costs up. Cut 8 will make the hole deeper at over 600 metres from the present 330 metres.
Debswana has clarified that Cut 8 will not increase the amount of diamond produced, but will enable Jwaneng mine to continue its current production levels.
The mine produces 15 million carats a year.
James Kirby, the Mining Lead for Cut 8 said the construction phase of Cut 8 is 20 percent complete and will be finished by the end of 2011.
The new projects at Debswana operation are also changing the way the miner conducts its business.
It is looking at contracting larger international mining contractors to save cash, especially when the world is in recession.
The Cut 8 waste mining is being done by Basil Read, a South African mining contractor.
“We are looking at partnering with bigger mining contractors,” said Balisi Bonyongo the General Manager of Jwaneng mine.
“We are looking at global contractors (because) they have a lot of mining expertise and are good at congestion in the pit,” added Kirby.
“We know in the region there are limited skills in this type of tonnage.”
Kirby said by contracting Basil Read, they were able to save funds, especially at a time when companies are financially constrained.
From next year, Debswana will purchase 300-tonne trucks until 2016 and 2 more shovels will be bought to prepare for new cuts.
Costs are also expected to go up as fuel usage is expected to rise. Debswana uses 28 million litres of fuel per year and that will rise to 100 million litres.
This is substantial in an economy that consumes 600 million litres of fuel a year.
Waste mining is currently been done to remove 20 million tones this year alone at the mine, which contributes 70 percent of Debswana revenues.