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16 april 2018

james_campbell_excl_xx.jpgBotswana Diamonds appeared to have expended most of its energy and resources last year on the new Thorny River project in South Africa as its Sunland Minerals joint venture with Alrosa, in Botswana takes long to find diamonds despite significant effort over the past four years of exploration.

Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa asked company managing director James Campbell on progress made on the South African project after they reported early this year that sampling work had failed to produce enough diamonds for an economic modelled diamond valuation.

He said that Botswana Diamonds was busy with a scoping study to determine the potential commerciality of the project with results expected mid-year.

The Thorny River project was a consolidation of the Frischgewaagt, Hartbeesfontein and Doornrivier properties into a 2,771-hectare area in the Limpopo Province.

It comprised the eastern extension of the kimberlite dyke/pipe systems on which the Klipspringer & Marsfontein Mines are located, both of which had been economically mined.

Campbell also spoke about their exploration work with Alrosa in Botswana as well as the company’s interest in the Maibwe joint venture (JV).

Below are excerpts from the interview.

How confident are you of making a breakthrough at Thorny River in South Africa?

Following extensive exploration work last year, which included percussion and core drilling, microdiamond work, petrography and bulk sampling which culminated in publishing a Competent Persons Report (‘CPR’) on the property, a scoping study is currently taking place...

How far have you gone with the scoping study, which I understand is to determine the potential commerciality of Thorny River?

The scoping study is far advanced with the results becoming available by the middle of the year.

Can you provide an update on your drilling and exploration work at the project?

We have completed advanced exploration work which allowed the publication of exploration results giving ranges in grade, diamond value and grade. More work is required to define an inferred resource.

Botswana Diamonds said last February that it had a much better understanding of the geology and metrics of the Thorny River deposit. Is the deposit better compared to your deposits in Botswana?

This would be an unfair comparison. The Thorny River project is more advanced from a resource development perspective than our Botswana projects which tend to sit a little lower in the resource development pipeline.

Can you shed some light on the drilling being done on the Ontevreden kimberlite?

The drilling on the Ontevreden kimberlite is far advanced and we are currently taking samples for detailed petrographic work. The results of this exploration campaign will be published by May.

Sunland Minerals, a joint venture between Botswana Diamonds and Alrosa, was expected to commence exploration work in the first half of the year in Botswana. What is the current state of this programme?

We have currently completed the first phase of our H1 2018 work programme where Botswana Diamonds plc was the operator. We are currently reviewing the results, which from an exploration perspective look encouraging.

How optimistic are you of making a breakthrough on the follow-up that will be done on the 15 previously identified priority geophysical targets in PL232- 235 and PL001-004 in the Central Kalahari?

As an explorationist, one is always optimistic, but this is tempered through years of experience.  It is encouraging that we have discovered geophysical anomalies, but there is some way to go to prove whether these are kimberlitic in origin let alone whether they are commercial or not.

Are you still pleased with the work done by your Russian joint venture partners to date?

Alrosa are the leading producer by carats in the world and have an enviable reputation from an exploration perspective.  Although the JV has yet to find a kimberlite, Botswana remains a favoured destination from a diamond perspective, though the kimberlites will be hard to find and will require tenacity and funding supplemented by game changing technology and top explorationists.  We have all of this in the Sunland JV.

Are you also confident of unlocking Maibwe in Botswana, a joint venture with BCL, the latter being currently in liquidation?

Very much so.  We are currently working with the liquidators on a prospectus which will allow the Maibwe JV to move forward in a constructive manner.

What is the outlook for diamond exploration companies like yours?

Botswana and South Africa remain two of the most prospective countries in the world from a diamond exploration perspective. Our shareholders remain supportive of our work and this combined with the settled political climate in Botswana and improving climate in South Africa along with a strong portfolio of projects across the resource pipeline should make the outlook positive.

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