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09 july 2018

james_campbell_excl_xx.jpgBotswana Diamonds and Vast Resources, recently signed a memorandum of understanding to prospect for diamonds in Zimbabwe.

The two companies will exchange information derived from past exploration on areas prospective for diamonds in the southern African country and establish a special purpose vehicle, to be jointly owned by each company, for the purpose of developing and exploiting diamond resources.

Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa spoke with Botswana Diamonds managing director James Campbell on the sidelines of a mining conference recently held in Gaborone, Botswana, to establish what pushed the diamond junior to get into Zimbabwe.

Campbell also commented on the prospecting licence awarded to Botswana Diamonds in South Africa and their joint venture project with Alrosa in Botswana.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

Why is Botswana Diamonds interested in Zimbabwe?

Botswana Diamonds is interested in the Kaapvaal Craton, which we believe to be the most prospective diamond destination in the world. The Kaapvaal Craton straddles South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We are obviously very active in Botswana as the name goes and we are also active in South Africa. We believe Zimbabwe is gradually opening for business, so we are putting a toe in the water through our joint venture with Vast Resources.

Why did you select Vast Resources or why did they select Botswana Diamonds?

Vast Resources originates from the company called African Consolidated Resources (ACR), which discovered the Marange diamond fields and they wished to partner with somebody who has the expertise and knowledge to develop diamond potential in Zimbabwe and they selected Botswana Diamonds because they believe that we have the skills, knowledge and ability to do this.

You are said to have acquired Zimbabwe’s diamond database (interrupted)

No, we have a long history of working in Zimbabwe, myself I worked for De Beers in Zimbabwe for a time and my [chairperson] Dr John Teeling has had a number of companies in Zimbabwe, including a company called Zambezi Gold plc. So, the group, the 162 Group, has a long history of working in Zimbabwe too. So collectively we have the knowledge and now the networks and contacts to be able to pursue diamond opportunities in Zimbabwe.

What have you done so far together with Vast Resources in Zimbabwe?

All we have done is that we have engaged in terms of our potential targets and they have people on the ground going to look at them right now.

So, apart from the Marange deposit, of course that everybody knows about, what else (interrupted)

Well there is also one mustn’t forget about, the River Ranch diamond mine, which is just across the border from Venetia in South Africa, not too far away from our Mooikloof prospect and then of course Murowa diamond mine [previously-owned] by Rio Tinto. So, in the area around, Murowa and River Ranch there a number of well-known kimberlites, which have had work done on them, but that work was done many, many years ago by operators such as De Beers and others. With the advent of the newer forms of technology, it’s now worthwhile going back to look at some of these kimberlites.

The issue of political instability was previously cited by a number of investors that were interested in Zimbabwe. What is your comment on that?

We are a junior explorer and we don’t have opinions on politics, but we believe that Zimbabwe is opening up for business and so like De Beers who have also made some positive announcements, as has Alrosa about going to start to do work in Zimbabwe.

What is your opinion on the 51/49 threshold that is still applicable to the diamond and platinum sectors?

The diamond deposits there would have to be highly commercial to work under that kind of fiscal environment, but I would hope in the fullness of time that may change and basically open up the country more to exploration, because clearly when you have such a high government free carries, those projects have to be so significant to work and maybe the government will relent over time, which means other diamond projects could still become commercial.

What will be an ideal set up for you in terms of equity structure?

I think the fiscal environment for diamonds in Botswana government is one of the best. They encourage investment, there is no legislated view on equity or any other such demand. Of course, though they have the 10% royalty, which can be a negative for marginal projects.

Let’s talk about the prospecting licence recently awarded to Botswana Diamonds for the 2.5 ha Mooikloof diamondiferous kimberlite pipe concession, in South Africa (interrupted)

Yes!

What are your plans going forward?

…the last known work in Mooikloof was done in the mid-1980s and that was done by my team when I worked for De Beers. So, if you go onto Google and have a look at what is available is that De Beers discovered in 1986 or thereabouts. We do know The Oaks which was discovered again by my team at around the same time was a diamond mine and Mooikloof has been through a number of different Prospecting Licence holders, none of which has actually published any information, but we do know it carries diamonds and so this looking through the lens of new technology, makes it an exciting prospect.

Are you on course to commence drilling in the second half of the year with Alrosa in Botswana?

We have identified a number of high grade geophysical anomalies and, have just completed a sampling programme over these anomalies and if that sampling programme produces kimberlitic indicators on top of the anomalies then that this will create drilling targets for the second half of the year, but we haven’t yet received the results, nor have we released the results to the market yet.

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