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Gabon courts foreign investors to grow fledgling diamond sector

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05 may 2020

Is this Botswana Diamonds’ eureka moment?

15 april 2019

The now defunct African Diamonds (AFD) discovered the AK6 mine, in Botswana, which was acquired by Lucara Diamond in 2010 and renamed Karowe Mine.

Karowe, which was fully commissioned in the second quarter of 2012, is one of the world’s foremost producers of large, high quality, Type IIA diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats, including the historic 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona and the 813 carat Constellation.

Lucara and AFD were joint venture partners in the AK6 diamond development project, after the former bought De Beers' stake in the project early 2010.

AFD owned 40% of AK6, as well as a portfolio of exploration projects in Botswana.

The chairperson of AFD was non-other than John Teeling, who now leads Botswana Diamonds, which has exploration projects in Botswana and South Africa.

Transition

The company reported recently that it is on course to commence bulk sampling and to produce diamonds at the Thorny River project, in South Africa by mid-year.

It said agreements had already been finalised with a mining contractor and a diamond processor.

Botswana Diamonds managing director James Campbell recently told Vox Markets that the contractor had a back-to-back agreement with processing at a nearby treatment facility.

The company had previously indicated its willingness to make use of the Klipspringer’s plant, which was 10km by road from Thorny River.

“Subsequent to the announcement of the Section 20 application, we will start to announce results as they flow from that project,” he said.

“That has a two-fold impact on the company: firstly, revenue of course and every company likes revenue, particularly a junior explorer such as ourselves and secondly we will get to that magical 5000 carats mark, which will enable us to work towards declaring a maiden indicated resource.”   

When I met Teeling in Gaborone in June 2017, I asked him if he would consider diamond production should they find something economic in Botswana and South Africa.

“Imagine if I had managed to hold on to Karowe…you would be having this interview in Manticao on my yatch, not here, and it would be a big yatch,” he said.

“So, the idea is, yes, you would like to do that [keep the mine].”

Teeling also told DiamondLoupe – when they asked him the same question – that he would take Thorny River if it is viable.

“We need one of these to work. I would like to be in production. At this point, instead of being an explorer, I would like to be a producer,” he said.

“We would like to get to production. So, if we are able to, we think we will.”

The estimated diamond grade range at Thorny River was previously said to be at 46-74cpht, while its estimated volume range was 1.2 -2.1 million tonnes of kimberlite.

The project was located some 2 km east of the mined out Marsfontein pipe, which measured 0.4 hectares in size and which produced 1.8 million carats of diamonds at an average grade of 172 cpht.

Even though the Marsfontein deposit was small, it repaid all capital outlay with less than four-days of its production. It had a diamond value of $128/ct.

Second mine?

Botswana Diamonds will also likely be involved in the production of diamonds in Zimbabwe’s Marange through its partnership with Vast Resources.

The companies agreed last August to partner in the development of the diamond potential of Zimbabwe.

The Chiadzwa Community Development Trust, which appointed Vast Resources as its joint venture partner was in principle granted the right to mine diamonds on the Heritage Concession in Marange last February.

Vast’s entry into Marange had been hanging in the balance after Zimbabwe picked Russia's Alrosa and China’s Anjin as the two foreign companies to conduct diamond exploration and mining in the country.

Botswana Diamonds and Vast received a positive preliminary geological valuation of the Heritage Concession last October.

The property contained several targets for modern alluvial diamond placer deposits.

The assessment also revealed that grades of the known modern alluvial placers which drain the Marange diamond fields ranged in grade from 50 to 500 carats per hundred tons (cpht).

There was also potential for remnants of the basal Umkondo (conglomerate) unit in the concession, which runs at grades from 100-3,000 cpht elsewhere in Marange.

The next step was to investigate the potential of the modern alluvial diamond deposits, as well as the older conglomerates on the property.

The likes of Teeling had their eureka moment with AFD and went on to establish Botswana Diamonds, whose exploration efforts for almost a decade are about to pay-off starting in South Africa and perhaps followed by Zimbabwe.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished