With a book value of P2.1 billion, Letlhakane mine tailings resource treatment plant project (LMTRTP), is expected to be commissioned at the end of this year with production set to commence immediately. According to LMTRTP Senior Project Manager, Omphile Ntabeni, the project aims at delivering sustained and profitable operations at Letlhakane post pit mining by recovering of the mine’s tailings resource. Tailings, also called mine dumps, culm dumps, slimes, tails, refuse, leach residue or slickens, are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction (gangue) of an ore. The Letlhakane Mine is Debswana's second oldest mine, opened in 1975, achieving peak production of approximately 1.1 million carats annually. With the mine facing closure and job losses as the pit was drying up, the tailings project was approved in 2014, with construction of the plant having started in the first quarter of 2015. Ntabeni noted that to achieve the best out of the project Debswana has built a specifically designed mining and treatment solution that ensures optimal economic recovery of diamonds. He said the plant uses fairly recent technology with the design of the stand-alone plant centred on a modular approach. The main process areas such as the Dense-Media Separation (DMS), scrubbing and crushing buildings have been designed in such a manner as to allow them to be fully constructed from fit-for-purpose modules, thereby accelerating project execution.
The project is expected to extend the life of the mine by over 20 years (from 2017-2042), treating 3.6 tonnes of tails per year, from this a production of 800 000 carats per annum is anticipated. “LMTRP is a low cost operation and one of the most viable projects which is a high revenue undertaking too,” declared Orapa Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mine (OLDM) General Manager Bakani Motlhabani. Debswana, which is jointly owned by the Botswana Government and De Beers, is the world's leading producer of gem diamonds, contributing about 30% of world output by value from four mines – the Letlhakane, Orapa, Jwaneng and Damtshaa mine. Meanwhile the Damtshaa mine, which was officially opened in October 2003 but placed under care and maintenance at the beginning of 2016, will resume operations at the beginning of 2018. Motlhabani revealed that Debswana spent P20 million annually on the mine’s care and maintenance period, adding that after a careful study of the market’s volatility they observed an improvement in trading patterns, hence the decision to reopen. “Market volatility is a new normal to us,” said Motlhabani, adding that they will continue to monitor the market and respond appropriately. “What we have since seen is that the market is robust and is improving,” he said.