London-listed Gem Diamonds started phase one of the construction of its Gope diamond project, in Botswana, in May.
Mining Weekly previously reported that the Gope project was originally scoped as a large six-million-ton opencast mine; it will now be built as an underground mine in a phased manner.
At the end of last year, the company received its mining licence from the government of Botswana and the company’s board approved phase one of the project early this year. “Board approval has been given to the project team at Gope, who have started with project roll-out,” says Gem Diamonds COO Alan Ashworth.
He adds the project team has invited tenders for the critical projects and equipment that will be required, while preparation for building the camp and logistics base has started.
Phase one of the project includes treating 500 000 t/y from the underground operation. “This phase will give the company a better understanding of what diamond prices the company can achieve from Gope, as prices for diamonds differ from mine to mine,” says Ashworth.
The first phase is expected to be operational in early 2013 and will also provide base information for a feasibility study on any further expansions.
Further, the company plans to spend $22-million on the project this year. This budget will be allocated to start the project, which will include one or two long-lead items, the contracts for the camp and logistics base and, towards year-end, the start of the decline, which will be the main access to the mine and is not expected to be finished this year.
“A decline was determined as being the most cost-effective access method; however, excavating through Kalahari sand would present a number of challenges,” says Ashworth.
In addition to the $22-million budget planned for this year, $47-million is budgeted for 2012, and $12-million for 2013.
Currently, the mineral resource estimate of the deposit is about 20-million carats. However, new estimates were released in May, which were not available at the time of going to print.