Botswana leads De Beers’ production

Baitshepi Sekgweng
AT THE SUMMIT : Jwaneng Debswana mine

Debswana Diamond Company, a joint venture between Botswana government and De Beers Group, continue to be the main pioneer in the latter’s operations as a leader in terms of production levels.

Among all of De Beers site operations, Debswana remains at the summit with most of the rough diamonds coming from Jwaneng, Orapa and Letlhakane mines.

According to the latest report from Anglo American, rough diamond production in Botswana increased by 12 percent to 6.9 million carats primarily driven by the planned treatment of higher grade ore and continued strong plant performance at Orapa mines.

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However, these are the combined efforts of both local mines with Jwaneng mine accounting for 3 782 million carats while Orapa churned out 3 117 million carats during the first quarter of 2023.

This performance is however against the fact that local mines are getting closer to reaching their lifespan, with the country’s flagship mine, Jwaneng, set to breathe some life until 2035. Though Jwaneng remains the lead contributor in local operations, it is reported to have become even more expensive to mine the open pits which are scarred and deep.

During the first quarter of 2022, overall production stood at 6 899 million carats from Debswana operations. When compared to quarter 4 of 2022, the production shows a 19 percent growth from 5 790 million carats recorded then.

Orapa Mine which constitutes production from both Letlhakane, Orapa and Damtshaa operations has thus far recorded their best output since beginning of last year. Playing second fiddle to Jwaneng Mine, Orapa produced 2 552 million carats in Q1 of 2022, 2 401 in the second quarter while third and fourth quarter saw a production of 3 080 and 2 664 million carats respectively.

Jwaneng on the other hand, has been consistent with high production having produced 3 632 and 3 120 million carats during the first and second quarter of 2022 respectively.

Production further went up in the third quarter reaching 3 567 million carats though it dropped to 3 126 during the fourth quarter of 2022. As a result, De Beers rough diamond production stood at 8.9 million carats across all of the operations with Botswana playing significant role on the massive overhaul.

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Despite a solid performance from Debswana operations, other De Beers operations have been off to a slow start with Namibia production having increased by 37 percent to reach 0.6 million carats as a result of the contribution from the Benguela Gem Vessel which started production in March 2022.

While Canada increased by 11 percent to reach 0.7 million carats, South African operations saw a decrease of 56 percent to 0.7 million carats. The decline is due to the planned completion of the Venetia open pit which continues to process lower grade surface stockpiles which will result in temporary lower production levels as the transition to underground operations commence.

As a result, De beers production guidance in 2023 remains at 30-33 million carats as a result of the good performance. In 2022 alone, De beers production was 34.6 million carats from 32.3 million carats which was produced in the year 2021. At that time Botswana’s contribution stood at 24.1 million carats against 22.3 million carats produced in 2021.

While Botswana led the pack in 2022, South Africa came in second with 5.5 million carats, Canada with 2.8 million carats with Namibia coming last with 2.1 million carats

Botswana and De Beers Group’ relations dates back to 1969 when it was established. However the first diamonds were discovered in the country in 1967. Through the joint venture Debswana, their operations include Jwaneng, Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa which is now under care and maintenance.

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