It will be light at the end of tunnel for Gem Diamonds as it readies to open its Ghaghoo diamond mine in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) following delays caused by a raft of problems including sand over-burden that pushed the project back.
The company said in a statement accompanying its results for the year ending 31 December, 2013 that it is all systems for the mine to begin production.
Already, Gem Diamonds has spent US$71.2 million (P635.7 million) on the development of the mine which is expected to produce 200, 000 carats of diamonds annually.
“Operations in 2014 have begun well and we are looking forward to bringing the Ghaghoo mine into production in H2,” Gem Diamonds Chief Executive Officer Clifford Elphick said.
This will be good news to shareholders who kept faith in company stock at a time when there are political questions over the mine and its location within wildlife area and the difficulties the junior miner faced in the formative stages of development.
Gem Diamonds has made progress despite it taking long to erect the plant and processing plant owing to adverse condition encountered during mine construction.
The problems were exacerbated by the death of two contractorsÔÇöwhich delayed the recovery of diamonds from 2013 to 2014.
However, the company said it has achieved major milestones including the completion of construction of the sand portion of the access decline; commencement of the extension of the main decline into basalt and the construction of the processing plant, which is ready for final commissioning.
Earlier this year, the British based global mining business, said it hit the kimberlite earlier than expected at level zero which is 130m below the surface and this has improved interest among the stakeholders into the project as well as the team’s ability to deliver on the project.
General Manager of Ghaghoo Diamond Mine, Kavis Kario, celebrated the achievement at the time praised what he termed a “super team” of young Batswana who are keen on delivering the project.
“Some of these people are the same men who dug the 473m tunnel using hand shovels and they are determined to see the first diamond being produced and we are indebted to them as they have shown unparalleled commitment to duty,” said Kario.
“The beauty of this project is not just working in the difficult CKGR conditions, but pioneering an underground diamond mine using drilling and rock support methods that many of our team members have not used before. Yet, the team has adapted very well and finished 2013 with a very commendable safety record of just one first aid case,” he added.
The Ghaghoo has a diamond resource of 20.5 million carats, with an in-situ value of US$ 4.6 billion (about P41.5 billion) and the November 2013 discovery will boost investor confidence that the mine is in line for June production.
This is the first underground diamond mine to be developed in Botswana, is expected to produce 720 000 tons per annum at 30 carats per 100 tons, a production rate which could increase depending on the market and economics.
The First Phase of the project entailed stripping and excavating a box cut to a depth of 25m on the loose Kalahari sand then excavating through the sand using an Open Face Tunnel Shield (OFTS). OFTS was equipped with a canopy to protect workers as they excavated the loose sand.
In July last year, Redpath Mining, a mining construction company handed over the project to Gem Diamonds Botswana after constructing a 479 m tunnel with an 8 degree incline at the depth of 80m below the ground. Since the handover, Gem Diamonds Botswana has done a 684.3m development with 438.8m metres of it being the extension of the underground tunnel.