Moving on down

Baitshepi Sekgweng

Jwaneng working overtime to ensure smooth 2033 transition

Although the move to underground mining in Jwaneng is still ten years away, preparations for that historic day are well underway as the world’s most valuable diamond mine looks to ensure a seamless transition.

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With a little under half of the country’s diamonds still to be mined, the switch below ground will stretch Jwaneng Diamond Mine’s lifespan beyond 2050.

Accounting, on average, for 70 percent of Debswana production and 80 percent of revenue, a new lease of life is great news for Botswana’s economy.

Currently, the mine’s massive income is generated entirely from its Cut 8 project, launched in 2011 and due to run for another six years.

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By then, the Cut 9 initiative will also be making money from the 41-year-old pit.

Started in 2019, Cut 9 has been moving out 101 million tonnes of waste material every year but is not expected to reach ore until 2027, which it will continue to dig-up until 2033, paving the way for the move underground.

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Treating the media to a behind-the-scenes tour last week, Jwaneng Mine General Manager (GM), Koolatotse Koolatotse revealed focus was slowly switching to 2033.

“Jwaneng Mine is almost going underground. We are under pressure to ensure that there won’t be any revenue gap. Transition from open pit to underground is going well because we are working overtime to avoid a revenue gap. If Jwaneng mine is giving you P30 billion per year it will cost the government if you allow a year to pass without production. We are on track, every time we fall behind by days or week we make mitigation plans to close that gap,” revealed Koolatotse, adding the future looks bright.

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“There are plenty of diamonds to benefit from, as of now only 58 percent of diamond reserves have been mined which means Botswana is left with 42 percent,” said the GM, insisting they were well positioned to deal with the recent dip in global demand for diamonds.

“The market is subdued now. It’s not a shocker but something we are prepared for because we experienced that uncertainty in 2009, 2015 and 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. By the time markets started going down significantly we had already made money,” Koolatotse assured the press, noting that from January to September, they registered revenue growth of 21 percent.

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“Of course the markets are now down so from September to end of the year this 21 percent figure will go down, but we still expect to end the year on a positive figure,” he continued confidently.

The GM added that regardless of the subdued diamond markets, Jwaneng Mine has no intentions of revising production targets and will instead resort to stockpiling their produce if need be.

The mine also exceeded its P3.5 billion savings target, managing to save-up P3.7 billion this year by cutting costs and efficient operations.

According to the latest figures released by Anglo American for Q3 (July – September) of 2023, diamond production in Botswana stood at 5.8 million carats, 12 percent down from the 6.6 million carats mined in last year’s corresponding three-month period.

From the 5.8 million, Jwaneng contributed 3.4 million carats while OLDM (Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines) accounted for 2.4 million carats.

Meanwhile, De Beers rough diamond production decreased by 23 percent to 7.4 million due to the planned reduction in South Africa’s Venetia as operations transition to underground. Production guidance remains unchanged, however, with the mining giant still confident of hitting its target of 30-33 million carats for the year.

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