In its bid to unlock the Ghaghoo diamond resource of 20.5 million carats, with an in-situ value of US$ 4.6 billion, Gem Diamonds Botswana achieved yet another significant milestone at the end of November 2013 when it hit the kimberlite a month before the expected time thus making the company upbeat and boosting the investor confidence that the mine will meet its target of starting production at Botswana’s first underground diamond mine in June 2014.
Ghaghoo Diamond Mine project is in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). The mine is expected to produce 720 000 tons per annum at 30 carats per 100 tons, a production rate which could increase depending on the market and economics. Ghaghoo Diamond Mine will be the first underground diamond mine to be developed in the country. The First Phase of the project entailed stripping and excavating a box cut to a depth of 25m on the loose Kalahari sand then excavating through the sand using an Open Face Tunnel Shield (OFTS). OFTS was equipped with a canopy to protect workers as they excavated the loose sand.
In July last year, Redpath Mining, a mining construction company handed over the project to Gem Diamonds Botswana after constructing a 479 m tunnel with an 8 degree incline at the depth of 80m below the ground. Since the handover, Gem Diamonds Botswana has done a 684.3m development with 438.8m metres of it being the extension of the underground tunnel.
The kimberlite was hit at level zero which is 130m below the surface and this has improved interest among the stakeholders into the project as well as the team’s ability to deliver on the project.
According to the Mining Manager, Modise Gaoetswe, their target is to advance the tunnel to 154m below the surface by end of February 2014 then develop production tunnels in preparation for production in June 2014. He said they have now started stockpiling Kimberlite from Level 0 which will be used for commissioning the Process Plant in April 2014. He said the main objective of accessing the Kimberlite pipe at level zero (130ml) was to get further down to 140ml to dewater and make safe the old De Beers workings ahead of commencement of production on the 154ml. He further said, Level 0 will be used for training of the mining teams and Ring Blasting trials in preparation for production in June 2014.
For his part, the elated General Manager of Ghaghoo Diamond Mine, Kavis Kario, celebrated the achievement of what he termed a “super team” of young Batswana who are keen on delivering the project. “Some of these people are the same men who dug the 473m tunnel using hand shovels and they are determined to see the first diamond being produced and we are indebted to them as they have shown unparalleled commitment to duty.” “The beauty of this project is not just working in the difficult CKGR conditions, but pioneering an underground diamond mine using drilling and rock support methods that many of our team members have not used before.
Yet, the team has adapted very well and finished 2013 with a very commendable safety record of just one first aid case.” said Kario. Subsequent to this report being compiled a tragic fatal accident occurred in the early hours of the morning of 11 January and in which one of our employees, Segolame Mashumba (26), tragically lost his life. The Inspector of Mines has conducted an enquiry and we await his report in this regard. Permission was, however, granted by the Inspector to resume mining operations.