Cut 3 to deliver over 5 000 jobs
Orapa’s No. 2 plant biggest in the world
Pre-feasibility studies for underground mining
Diamond mining giant Debswana, a partnership between Botswana government and De Beers, who pride themselves in forward planning is lining up two major projects to extend the lifespan of their operations at the Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa mines (the OLDM complex).
The two envisaged strategic developments, underground mining at Letlhakane and Cut 3 project at Orapa mine could change the fortunes of Debswana, create thousands of jobs and grow the local economy of Boteti district multiple fold.
The man at the helm of the mining complex, General Manager Bakani Motlhabani, oozes confidence when he declares that diamond mining will continue to play a leading role in the economy and development of Botswana. Already OLDM has just commissioned a new tailings plant at Letlhakane mine to reprocess stockpiles in search of diamonds.
Hosting media corps in Orapa last week Motlhabani revealed that they are already at a concept stage of studies to explore the possibility of developing shafts for underground mining to access kimberlite in the closed Letlhakane mine. “If feasibility studies are bankable, showing that the project is viable we could be going underground by 2025,” he said, adding that underground mining will be a first for Debswana.
Evidently excited about the prospects of the new development, Motlhabani hails Cut 3 project as the next mining project/ expansion for OLDM that will transform Orapa. Cut 3, which is currently at pre-feasibility stage, will involve stripping away of tonnes of overlaying waste material, and widening as well as deepening the pit to reach new reserves. Motlhabani said the project will require huge capital investment for Waste movement from 7- 96 Mt pa; Truck requirements from 23 up to 58; Shovel requirements from 4 up to 6 and an Additional 7 500 people
To achieve the zero harm commitment, Motlhabani said at OLDM they emphasise and care about the Health and Safety of our visitors, employees, business partners and Communities and we are committed to continuous improvement. To achieve high safety standards, he said the work environment must be clean, adding they would continue to drive the culture of a safe and clean work environment. "We believe that accident prevention is possible,when we are“SwitchedOn”at all times because Safety is a state of mind," he said.
To this end, OLDM has attained certification on the new environment standard of 2015 for the category of the mining operations, one of the few mines to have done so around the world. In addition, OLDM has also been awarded ISO 14001 on the environment standard and certification on occupational health and safety standards (OHSAS).
Standing on the scenic viewpoint over No 2 Plant, one cannot help but catch a glimpse of the much smaller Damtshaa operation further east, a distance of about 10km away. But down below is the gigantic Ore Processing No.2 Plant, commissioned by the then President Festus Mogae in 2000.
Museum, game park
Enumerating several corporate social investments initiatives that OLDM has embarked on, Motlhabani said the district will remain economically vibrant beyond the life of the mines. Such initiatives are part of the socio-economic mine closure plan. The projects include the diamond museum of international standards and the development and expansion of a fully fledged game park as an avenue for economic activity beyond mining. The game park already contributes to enhancing the tourism potential of the region through conservation of endangered species, and plans to make Orapa a gateway to Makgadikgadi.
The history of diamond mining in Botswana, from the rudimentary exploration techniques in the formative years to the latest technologies and corporate social investment initiatives are all captured in the newly opened Adrian Gale Diamond Museum. Manned by I. Mpugwa, the museum is still being fitted with display material depicting the life of a diamond from complex chemical reactions in the belly of the earth millions of years ago to tectonic movements that catalyzed volcanic eruptions that ultimately brought limestones containing the precious metal to within reach of mankind.
But Motlhabani is confident that the museum, at full operation, will match the standard of the likes of popular Dubai and England museums. The museum will attract local communities and schools for educational trips and international tourists.
"Of course we are aware of threats posed by synthetics but the company (Debswana) is fully prepared for any eventualities. However as you may be aware our tagline goes “rare is real” meaning you cannot imagine any right thinking spouse proposing to their partner with a fake diamond. We believe a market for rare gems still exists going forward. We are partnering De Beers to create understanding of the difference between real diamonds versus synthetics,” Motlhabani said, confidently.