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ORAPA CUT 3 TAKING SHAPE: To extend the mine to 2055

Publishing Date : 05 August, 2019

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

Orapa Mine, the world‘s largest by area will continue mining up to just over 2050 , Orapa Letlhakane & Damtshaa(OLDM) Mines General Manager Bakani Motlhabani revealed on the sidelines of the OLDM  50 Years Anniversary Celebrations in Orapa recently.

Debswana 50 year’s celebrations were held concurrently around three sites, being OLDM, Jwaneng & the Stakeholders offering hosted by the Gaborone head office. When giving welcome remarks at the event Motlhabani explained that being a mining outfit, OLDM community doesn’t play in the space of the glitz and glamour associated with the sparkle of the finished diamond product.


“What we are familiar with is the rhythm and rumbling sounds associated with open pit drilling, blasting, loading and ore processing components hauling and winding 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 356 days a year. From all these our people unearth gems that transform the lives of many across the world” he said.


Motlhabani explained that OLDM with its three sites produce diverse diamond products, both in volume and quality. “We have the fancy gems from Letlhakane & Damtshaa Mine and the industrial diamonds from Orapa Mine. From 1971 to end of 2018 we have recovered approximately 400 million carats” he said.


Signaling the mine’s ambitious future plans Motlhabani shared that the operation will going forward embrace technology to continue delivering increased shareholder value “As we tread into the interesting and exciting world of technology, innovation and creativity, we are finding it easier and even safer ways of recovering our resource resulting in even better performance results” he said.


Orapa Mine was discovered in 1967 by a team of De Beers geologists led by Manfred Marx. It became fully operational in July 1971 when it was officially opened by the then President of Botswana, His Excellency Sir Seretse Khama. Currently Orapa is mining at a depth of 250 metres and is expected to reach 450 metres by 2026.


The resource consists of one volcanic pipe that separates into two distinct pipes at depth, namely north and south pipes which erupted through Transvaal strata and the overlying Karoo sediments over 200 million years ago. Production normally varies according to mining plans at an average of 12 million carats per year. In 2014, Orapa produced 12 073 522 carats.


Motlhabani said in the past the equipment used in diamond recovery in the 1990s was archaic and not very efficient. “Old x-ray machines were replaced with energy efficient channel displacement machines that led to greater accuracy in recovery without relying on human intervention” he said explaining that it was such advancements that enabled the discovery of Okavango Blue, one of the rarest mineral finds in global history.


The 41.11carats stone was unearthed from the underground terrains of the wide spread AK1 pit of Orapa Mine and  recovered at Plant 2  late last year then unveiled in May this year as a 20.46 carat oval shaped precious blue diamond after cutting & polishing. The highly anticipated Orapa Mine expansion was also hinted by Debswana Managing Director Albert Milton at the stakeholder appreciation party held at the Gaborone International Conventions Centre (GICC) the same day.


Currently the mine is relocating an over 500m spread dump on the south side of the pit to the far western side to give way for Cut 3 core extraction boreholes. OLDM also recently closed and decommissioned Slurry Dams 2, a fines residual disposal facility that has been operating for years. The dam has been receiving residues from Orapa No.1 & 2 Plants.


The Mine now  developing a world class 6 cell fines  residual disposal facility to accommodate Orapa Mine’ s  remaining cut 2 ore processing  and  further take in  residues  from Cut 3  and beyond. Milton hinted that studies were underway to assess the feasibility of the Cut 3 project with anticipation to expand the mine‘s lifespan by over 30 years.


Cut 3 will involve stripping away waste at the bottom of the mine, as well as widening and deepening the pit. The mine is expected to increase its fleet of trucks from the current 23 to 58. Works to give way for Cut 3 also include relocation of Training Centre and Primary Crashers.
Still at the OLDM 50th Anniversary event Vice President of Botswana and also Member of Parliament for Boteti West Slumber Tsogwane said 50 years ago, on 23rd June, a partnership that carried the lives and hopes of many generations of Batswana was born. The Vice President noted that OLDM has been a key driver of development in the Boteti Sub District especially in the areas of Health and Education.


He highlighted that Orapa Hospital has enabled access to improved health care for communities in its sphere of influence. The facility operates as a referral hospital for all village around Orapa and the entire Boteti Sub District, catering for a resident population of approximately 10 000 and regional catchment area of over 54 000 people.


Resident Director of De Beers Holdings Botswana Mr Neo Moroka said the 50th Anniversary brings another opportunity of a re-looking at how Debswana can further pursue global benchmark levels and continue to play a pivotal role in Botswana’s next economic transformation agenda. “This is an opportunity to consider how our iconic company can continue to be an enabler in our common journey towards realizing the goals of our Long Term 2036 Vision,” he said.

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