Debswana, the country’s largest rough diamond producer is embarking on an ambitious project to expand the lifespan of the Orapa mine by an additional 35 years.
Orapa mine is the 9th biggest diamond mine in the world and is set to get even bigger through the Cut 3 project which is currently at pre-feasibility stage. “Cut 3 is the next big push at Orapa, where we will be expanding the mine. At Orapa, mining is currently at Cut-2 while Cut-3 is at pre-feasibility stage; we are working towards the next push back. Cut 3 is a big expansion,” said Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines general manager, Bakani Motlhabane recently. He was addressing local newspapers and radio editors who visited the mine.
According to information from the company website, a detailed design study is underway to extend the life of the mine beyond the current open pit (Cut 2). Studies are at pre-feasibility stage and will inform the various parameters for Cut-3, said Debswana which is owned by De Beers and Botswana Government on an equal basis. The current Life of Mine, which only includes Cut-2, extends to 2030.
Motlhabane, who was giving an overview of the mine said, “We are excited about Cut 3 because it is going to transform this place. It is going to make Orapa different.” The GM did not go into details regarding the costs but maintained that this is not a little expansion on the sides it is about “overhauling this place.” Orapa, which is the oldest operating mine in the country, is currently mining at a depth of 250 metres and is expected to reach 450 metres by 2026.
Said Motlhabane, “We aspire to become a global benchmark diamond business. That is really our drive, everything that we do we want to be amongst the best if we are not amongst the best we must be the ones setting the benchmark. “We are focusing in the future, in future we are going to have expansions; there are projects that we are busy with that are coming in the future that will keep us going.” Cut 3 will involve stripping away waste at the bottom of the mine, as well as widening and deepening the pit. The mine is expected to increase its fleet of trucks from the current 23 to 58. Orapa which currently has a staff
complement of over 2000 employees will need an extra 500 for Cut 3 with additional houses. The envisaged extension of the mine comes after President Mokgweetsi Masisi has indicated that, negotiation on new diamond sales agreement with De Beers is just about to start. “We have had a wonderful relationship with De Beers and we expect that relationship to be even more cemented,” Masisi said in an interview with Bloomberg. “There is a way of actually achieving a win-win for both, and that’s what we desire.”
On a related matter, Debswana has also announced plans to further expand Jwaneng mine, a sister operation to Orapa through a project known as Cut 9.