Debswana’s Orapa Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) last week held a two-day Diamond Exploration Conference which also coincided with their 50 years anniversary of diamond discovery.
OLDM also paid tribute to the pioneers who made it possible for Debswana Mining Company to be where it is today. The conference which was organized by Diamond Exploration Companies, University of Botswana and BIUST also had students from these institutions who came to apprise themselves with diamond exploration.
The objectives of the conference also sought to inspire young geology undergraduates and professional to take exploration as a career and business opportunity and to demonstrate past and present diamond exploration techniques.
The General Manager of OLDM, Bakani Motlhabani, showered accolades on diamond exploration pioneers who made it possible for Debswana to be where it is today. He took pride in the fact that the first diamond discoveries were made in the Boteti Region.
“The first discoveries were made here in the Boteti Region with BK1, then AK1 in 1967, DK1 and 2 in 1968 and BK9 and 12 in 1970 with JWDK7 in 1972.
“Mining started in Orapa Mine in 1971, Letlhakane Mine in 1976, Jwaneng Mine in 1982 and Damtshaa Mine in 2002. The lifepan of mining for Orapa Mine is 2053,” he said.
Motlhabani noted that diamonds played a pivotal role in the development of Botswana and its people. He said Debswana continues to be the cornerstone of the national economy of Botswana producing in excess of 70 percent of Botswana’s export earnings, approximately 30 percent of Gross Domestic product (GDP) and 50 percent of government revenue.
“Diamond exploration has contributed greatly to the building of roads, clinics and hospitals, schools and universities and general infrastructure in Botswana. Our purpose is to turn diamond dreams into lasting reality, while caring about the people whose life we touch because we mine diamonds to enrich the nation,” added Motlhabani.
He also said that at the core of their business is the high regard for the safety and wellbeing of their people, the environment, the community and the equipment they use.
Sharing the history of Orapa diamond discovery one of the famous explorers and pioneers, Manfred Marx, said it began on the morning of April 21, 1967.
Marx was with a team of 12 Batswana explorers and they stepped into a low calcarete hill littered with Kimberlitic indicator minerals. He said this was not entirely unexpected as some months earlier Dr Gavin Lamont who was an exploration manager and senior geologist Jim Gibson had detected such minerals during a road sampling survey into the isolated region south of the Makgadikgadi Pans.
“However what was unexpected was the enormous size of this kimberlite pipe that was destined to become the world class Orapa Mine. Gavin and Jim arrived in my camp on April 25 where they examined the excavated material and confirmed it to be a crater facies kimberlite like that at the Mwadui Mine in Tanzania,” he said.
Marx said the field work that led to this discovery was very demanding as access tracks had to be cut. He said hundreds of cuts had to be made and hundreds of miles were walked at 11 miles traverse per day. He also said heavy sample bags were carried often through thick thorn bush in the hot sun and in risk of dangerous snakes. The exploration consisted of 40 Batswana men.
“Little did we realise then that the Orapa discovery would not only be a company maker but a nation maker. Surely God was smiling on Batswana for with independence in September 1966, came the rains that ended the six years of crippling drought, followed by the diamond discovery that was destined to secure the country’s economic future and would positively impact on so many people. To me this is surely the greatest legacy of the Orapa discovery,” Marx said.
He said before the Orapa discovery most of the Kimberlite mine discoveries were made by prospectors such as Allister Fincham (Finchmine) and Williams (Mwadui Mine).
He said after this period Orapa saw the discoveries by De Beers and other companies of the Venetia Mine in South Africa and Argyle Mine in Australia. He said with the Canadian mines came the entrepreneurial geologists such as Charles Fibke and several others.
“The third person to see the large oval Orapa pipe feature on the aerial photograph was Chris Jennings who was then the Deputy Director of the Geological Survey in Lobatse,” said Marx
“However, the greatest leap forward was reserved for the people of Botswana. That small step 50 years ago has ensured the future of many generations of Batswana,” he added.
In conclusion Marx said Botswana mines stand as a beacon to the wise leadership that the country has enjoyed over the years, led by the first president Sir Seretse Khama. He said Khama’s vision was that the wealth generated by the diamonds would be shared by all of his people.