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Waiting for Godot?: Botswana Diamonds awaits Zim kimberlite concessions application outcome

16 may 2022

james_campbell_excl_xx.jpgDiamond explorer, Botswana Diamonds applied for kimberlite concessions in the Northwest of Zimbabwe in late 2020.

Company managing director James Campbell told Rough&Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa in an exclusive interview that they are still waiting for the outcome of the application.

He said the state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) was their preferred partner should they receive the licenses.

Zimbabwean law states that interested diamond miners in the country should partner with one of ZCDC, Alrosa, RZM Murowa (formerly RioZim) or Anjin.

Botswana Diamonds also has a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with Vast to develop a concession in the Marange diamond fields.

Vast had been waiting for years to get their application in Marange approved.

Zimbabwe is heavily underexplored, but Alrosa recently established a joint venture company with ZCDC known as Alrosa Zimbabwe to prospect for diamonds in the country.

 Below are excerpts of the interview.

What was the outcome of your application for kimberlite concessions in the Northwest of Zimbabwe?

There is no outcome at the moment.

Are you still considering ZCDC as your preferred partner along with a local group?

ZCDC is still the preferred partner in the absence of being able to apply for licenses with our entity.

Botswana Diamonds has a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with Vast to develop a concession in the Marange diamond fields. Can you provide an update on this application?

Sadly, there is no update to speak of.

What are the prospects of finding new deposits in Zimbabwe?

Botswana Diamonds plc (‘BOD’) views Zimbabwe as being highly prospective as there has been very limited recent diamond exploration and thus has not had the benefit of groundbreaking exploration and evaluation technology.  This kind of technology formed the basis for the re-discovery and evaluation of AK6, now Karowe Mine, by BOD’s predecessor, African Diamonds plc in partnership with De Beers.

What is your assessment of the business and economic environment in Zimbabwe post-2017?

Ideally, BOD should be able to apply for prospecting rights in its name or with a local company, as it can in Botswana and South Africa.

Botswana Diamonds previously said its strategic partners, Diamexstrat ('DESB') and Burgundy, share its vision of discovering a diamond mine in Botswana. What progress has been since you joined forces with these firms?

The strategic alliance has made significant progress in analysing the very large database using modern techniques, such as machine learning.  Several targets have been identified.

How confident are you in finding economic deposits in South Africa?

Botswana Diamonds is confident of this, especially if you look at the discoveries the company has made on its Thorny River property.

What are your chances of transitioning from an exploration company to a diamond producer?

Being a producer is what we are planning to become.

From our project perspective, we are currently undertaking resource development work and technical studies on Thorny River and from a corporate perspective, we are looking at acquiring the Ghaghoo diamond mine from Gem Diamonds in Botswana.

Botswana Diamonds previously revealed that it was processing drill samples to test for both diamond and kimberlitic indicator content on the River Kimberlite. What did you find from your tests?

Following a detailed ground geophysical programme in October 2020, 6, six-inch percussion reverse circulation holes were drilled into the newly discovered River Kimberlite pipe in the Limpopo Province of South Africa during November 2020. A combined total of 39.5m intersected kimberlite while an additional 55m intersected a weathered kimberlite breccia. 

Samples from these holes were taken at one-metre intervals and twenty of these totalling about 500kg were selected and submitted to an independent processing facility for assessment through screening, dense media separation and hand sorting.  11 diamonds, 172 G10 pyrope garnets, 623 G9 pyrope garnets, 555 eclogitic garnets, 438 chromites and 268 chromium diopsides (clinopyroxene) were recovered at sizes between -1.0+0.3mm.

Recoveries of a specific mineral species were capped at 20 grains and thus this picture is a snapshot of the overall sample indicator content.  Importantly, all the samples contained abundant kimberlitic indicators. The diamonds are all notably of good colour and clarity and are of commercial quality and in high demand by the market. The diamonds were not weighed as the sample size was small and they are not representative of a possible population.

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