Botswana will have its sixth diamond mine by end of this year in a move that will bolster the country’s image as the world’s biggest producer.
“AK 6 will come on stream in October/ November this year and will reach full capacity by early next year,” the executive chairman of Botswana Diamonds, John Teeling, said on Thursday.
AK 6 was sold to Lucara Diamonds in December but the newly formed Botswana Diamonds has 30 percent stake. The AK6 fell into the hands of the Toronto stock exchange listed Lucara Diamonds in December last year when African Diamonds sold it.
Teeling said that the development of AK 6 came at the right time when diamond prices are at its peak.
“Diamond prices are now higher than ever in history and the demand is coming from Asia,” he said.
AK 6 is some 15 kilometers south-west of Letlhakane Village ÔÇô in an area which Teeling has dubbed the best diamonds address in the worldÔÇöand will bring the number of mines in the area to five. Debswana owns three mines while Firestone Diamonds and Liucara will own one each.
AK 6 is expected to produce 1 million carats per annum and has a lifespan of 15 years of open cast.
The exploration exercise at AK 6 was carried out by De Beers, following the joint venture through the use of its new technology found out that the kimberliteÔÇöthe volcanic rock deposit containing diamonds ÔÇô was much larger than originally thought.
It also contained the rare nitrogen free gemstone deposits found in 45- carat Hope diamond in the Smithsonian in New York and Cullinan diamonds, which are part of the Crown Jewels.
The rare nitrogen free gemstone deposits is concentrated at the southern loop of the earmarked mine and, according to geologists, is expected to yield some larger stones, which are presently in short supply due to the aging mines.
AK6 has been praised by the diamond community as one of the “exciting projects” at a time the world is faced with the dwindling supply of gemstones as old mine are aging, leading demand and supply gap.
He said China and India are the future drivers of the diamonds market as young women in those countries would be looking at having diamond rings.
“The other thing is that they do have huge middle class that has got access to disposable cash,” he said.
He said India’s middle class alone is made up of some 400 million people while China stands at 250 million.
Meanwhile, Lucara Diamonds is expected to list on the Botswana Stock Exchange by the beginning of next month.