De Beers to mine Atlantic waters

30 April 2007

Diamond mining giant De Beers has launched the deep-water mining vessel, the Peace in Africa, to operate off the Namaqualand coast in the Northern Cape, where it will remain for two years.

The Business Report stated on Sunday that the R1.2-billion vessel could be the key to new wealth for the mining company, which told them the project offers the prospect of “good quality and profitable” diamond production, making a vital contribution to the South African economy.

According to the paper, the Orange River discharges an estimated 60.4-million tons of sediment annually and De Beers hopes to track down the diamonds that have been flowing into the sea with the Peace in Africa.

Mining starts in June and the vessel is expected to have an operating lifespan of 30 years, producing about 240 000 carats of diamonds per year. According to the paper, the ship has a crew of 60 carrying out 12-hour shifts, staying at sea for 28 days then taking 28 days leave.

“Should results from this marine mining operation exceed expectations, we will certainly be considering additional vessels,” De Beers’s managing director David Noko told Business Report.

The vessel is equipped with a large remote-operated undersea crawler and has on-board diamond recovery treatment, enabling it to reach areas where divers cannot operate safely.

The drill and the sea crawler loosen the seabed sediments, which are then airlifted or pumped to the vessel for processing.

Project manager Glenn Black told Moneyweb that the launching of the vessel was a landmark achievement for De Beers, which was already using similar crawling technology to mine for diamonds off the coast of Namibia.

Moneyweb states the exploration site is exceptional in that 95% of the diamonds being found are expected to be of gem quality.

He added that the company was excited that it was contributing to socio-economic improvement and boosting employment in the impoverished Richtersveld are of the Northern Cape.

“It is a significant achievement for De Beers as it took us a number of years to build confidence on the project,” he said.

Mining Weekly further reported last week that the company is to turn Port Nolloth into a marine mining hub servicing the area, by spending some R6-million on replacing the jetty crane, repairing the jetty surface and pedestrian walkways and providing additional security.

De Beers’s supply chain general manager Wim van Vliet said that the facility service and support De Beers Marine’s vessels in Namibia and South Africa.

Northern Cape Premier Dipuo Peters told Mining Weekly that need to develop engineering, technological and project management skills to take full advantage of the province’s natural resources.

“This is an opportunity to turn around the fortunes and image through diamonds in the Northern Cape,” she said.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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