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28 december 2020

james_campbell_excl_xx.jpgBotswana Diamonds intends to mine the KX36 kimberlite, which it recently acquired from Petra Diamonds if found commercial.

The high-grade KX36 kimberlite pipe is part of the three Prospecting Licenses in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana held by Sekaka, which was an exploration vehicle in Botswana for Petra Diamonds.

The diamond exploration company managing director James Campbell told Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa in an exclusive interview that they will consider partnering with another company to share the risk.

Below are excerpts of the interview.

Botswana Diamonds recently completed the takeover of Sekaka Diamonds from Petra Diamonds. How optimistic are you of the future with this acquisition?

We are most optimistic about this acquisition for three main reasons. First, the acquisition includes the high-grade kimberlite pipe called KX36 along with a fit-for-purpose bulk sampling plant. Petra has already undertaken a pre-feasibility study on KX36 which we will take further. Second, Sekaka has surrounding prospecting licenses with several priority targets. As kimberlites occur in clusters and KX36 is currently on its own, there is a strong chance one or more of these targets are kimberlites. And third, we now own a most comprehensive database which has data stretching back 15-years. This along with our substantial database will pave for the way for future discoveries in Botswana which we believe to be Lion country for diamond exploration.

When will you bulk sample the KX36 kimberlite?

The plan is first to assess exactly what needs to be done. Following this, we will need to seek the required regulatory approvals. Giving exact timing is difficult as we are in the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel is still complicated.

Are you considering mining the kimberlite if found commercial?

It is generally our intention to mine if we find a deposit commercial. However, there are many issues which should be considered such as partnering (risk sharing) with another company and like we did when I was MD of African Diamonds plc an offer was made for the company, as it had the rich AK6 deposit (now Karowe Mine) and it was in the best interests of shareholders so it was accepted.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your exploration activities in Southern Africa?

The Covid-19 pandemic created both challenges and opportunities. On the latter, we were able to secure a good deal for Botswana Diamonds shareholders on the acquisition of Sekaka Diamonds. This may not have been possible during normal times. We were also able to do considerable work on our Thorny River and Marsfontein licenses in South Africa concluding the year with a discovery of a blow (small kimberlite pipe) on our Thorny River property. Sadly, we were unable to explore in the Kalahari of Botswana this year due to limitations on international travel, but we hope to restart that again in 2021.

What measures did you put in place to ensure your operations are not affected by the pandemic?

From an office perspective, I have always worked from home to both save costs and time and therefore the usual measures were in place in the home. On our fieldwork, we were guided by the detailed local regulations which we fully complied with.

Botswana Diamonds recently discovered a new small kimberlite pipe at the Thorny River project in South Africa. What is the next step with this programme?

We are currently undertaking three-dimensional modelling of the pipe using all the available drilling and geophysical data. Following this, we will assess both the kimberlite and kimberlite breccia for diamonds and kimberlitic indicators. Assuming this is positive, we will move to core drilling to provide more precision on the geology of the pipe and surrounding country rock.

What are your plans with the Marsfontein as targets discovered no additional extensions to the M8 kimberlite?

Our focus on Marsfontein will shift to the secondary or gravel deposits on Marsfontein which flow from the high-grade kimberlite pipe. As part of the recent ground geophysics survey, we assessed the area using magnetics, electromagnetics and ground-penetrating radar. The next step is bulk sampling to assess the diamond content.

When do your Marange partners expect to receive a diamond mining licence?

Sadly, I cannot comment on this as we have yet to receive formal notification from our partners Vast Resources plc as to the status of their diamond mining license application.

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