Diamond mining and exploration company Botswana Diamonds “has South Africa to itself” in terms of exploring for new and undiscovered kimberlites, as no other major exploration projects are currently under way, according to MD James Campbell.
To his knowledge, Botswana Diamonds is the sole active explorer for primary kimberlites in the country. “South Africa has long been seen as the domain of [diamond mining major] De Beers,” says Campbell, pointing out that De Beers has scaled down its exploration over the past couple of decades and entirely ceased all exploration in recent years.
“There is no competition,” he says.
Campbell adds that De Beers has not explored some areas of South Africa for more than 40 years, and has not explored some areas at all.
Factors in favour of local diamond exploration are the country’s banking infrastructure, its long history of diamond production and the fact that 10% of the world’s diamonds are currently derived from South Africa. “From a junior explorer’s perspective, South Africa is a great opportunity [for exploration] . . . it can only get better,” he enthuses.
Campbell highlights the importance of having a proven record in exploration, and especially a strong history of discovering commercially viable deposits. “Anybody can . . . find a diamond deposit or kimberlite, but [having] a record of producing commercial deposits is rare, and we are very blessed to be part of that.”
In terms of the criteria for diamond exploration, Campbell explains that Botswana Diamonds primarily focuses on areas where there have been previous discoveries. “It is what is called the science of ‘closeology’ – you are going to find diamond deposits chiefly where they have already been found.”
Exploration technology also plays a key role in identifying the deposits that are more difficult to find. Campell refers to a famous saying in the exploration business: “Every time there is a breakthrough in exploration technology, the exploration clock starts to tick again”.
Further, location is a critical aspect in ensuring explorers are searching in the right areas from the start. “You obviously have to be in the ‘best addresses’. Botswana Diamonds is firmly of the view that South Africa is probably the number one destination for diamond exploration in the world,” states Campbell.
He also points out that neighbouring Botswana also has a major role to play in terms of key locations to find diamonds: “Botswana is elephant country for diamonds; it’s the best country in the world to explore for diamonds. It has a strong rule of law and it is the world’s largest diamond producer.”