Debswana Diamond Company’s recently announced scholarship programme will create a pool of mining experts that are in short supply in the country’s extraction industry to coincide with a period when mines are getting deeper and bigger, the company’s managing director has revealed.
Balisi Bonyongo, an Engineering graduate himself, said in an interview that they want to supplement government’s skills training, but their focus will be on specific courses. However, he revealed that there will be no guarantee of employment on completion of programmes.
“There is no guarantee of employment,” he said, adding that Debswana is a big company and significant enough to understand that mining skills are imported from outside the country.
“We got engineers, artisans from Zimbabwe and Zambia. So if you look at that, you realise we are in a risk”.
Debswana said the goal is to develop a pool of expertise of engineers particularly in mining, ore processing, geology, geo-technical engineering and hydro geology.
“Those areas are hard core and are not easy to develop locally. These ones (graduates in these fields) generally they will come back and find they fit and if they cannot fit with access capacity; this country has a lot of mines and other industries,” Bonyongo added.
The company stopped its scholarship progamme after realising that government was sending a lot of people to school, instead the company decided not to send its own, but to ‘mop up’ what government was producing.
However, with government sponsoring broadly, Debswana wants to narrow the skills needed in the industry as operations are getting deeper and bigger that will require certain skills. Such projects that will require skills include Cut 8, which was contracted to a consortium of companies. Other sophisticated operations in Botswana include the underground BCL shafts.
Debswana said it would be targeting fresh school leavers to begin the journey with and avoid disrupting those who have already begun their academic journey.
Bonyongo told Mining & Travel Review that they were taking the last mile to arrive at the bottleneck at the Jwaneng based Cut 8 project. “Last year, 2014, we reached the apex like and we are now on the decline,” he stated. According to the MD, 55% of the work has happened on waste removal so far.
“Our job is to get at the bottleneck exactly on the time we set, otherwise if we arrive there when ore is depleted somewhere, we have problems,” he said. “So we always sequence our mining so that we are ready for the next ore so that we continue to produce equal results”.
Cut 8 follows Cuts 6 and 7 and there is already talk of Cut 9 to extend the mine life of Jwaneng, which contributes more carats to Debswana and De Beers than other four operations. Debswana has contracted the services of Majwe Mining Joint Venture Pty Ltd to mine and expose diamond bearing ore.
Majwe Mining Project Director, Rod Fraser pledged recently that they would deliver the project as per their agreement with Debswana.
“We will always remain mindful and remember our main purpose here at Jwaneng, which is of course to provide mine contracting services to the Debswana-Jwaneng Mine by moving over 156 million Bank Cubic Meters of waste material safely and efficiently,” he said, adding that they plan to mine 36 Mbcm in 2015.
When complete, Cut 8 project will extend Life of Jwaneng mine to 2031 and at completion the project pushback will have mined 658 million tons of waste to deliver 115 million carats.
The pit dimensions will be 2.4km long, 1.6km wide at surface and 624m deep, which will re-define Jwaneng as a super-pit. The project was launched in December 2010 at P24 billion and was the largest-ever single capital commitment in Botswana’s private sector.
From inception, the waste mining was outsourced and split into Phase 1 and Phase 2. The early Phase 1 work was completed in 2012 and at that time Phase 2 was ramping up.
Phase 2 of Cut 8, is being mined by Majwe Mining in collaboration with Debswana.