Angola’s newest diamond mining operation, the Tcheji Mining Company, had its operation formally inaugurated on April 4. The project involved an initial investment of some $15-million and the mine has an initial production capacity of 3 000 ct a month. However, with the completion of a new treatment plant, scheduled for the middle of next month, this should increase to 6 000 ct/m. The mine is expected to accrue gross revenues of $1.5-million a month.
State-owned diamond group Endiama is one of the investors in Tcheji, the other investors and shareholders being Oga, Articon, Ipergesta, Somia Yassacama and BK. The mine concession area covers 635 km2, straddling the border between the provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. Exploration activities in the area started in 2011 and indicate reserves of at least 250 000 ct, in more than one location. Tcheji has a five year contract with Endiama.
During Phase 1 of the project, alluvial diamonds will be exploited. Over the next few years, studies on the mining of kimberlites in the concession will be carried out. The mine currently employs 55 workers, all of whom – including the specialised staff – are Angolans. No less than 80% have been recruited from the local area, particularly the community of Xá Cassau, in Lunda Norte, and the district of Saurimo, in Lunda Sul.
The significance assigned to the opening of the mine was indicated by the high-level government delegation that attended the function (held in the town of Lucapa, in Lunda Norte). It was led by Geology and Mines Minister Francisco Queiroz and Territorial Adminis-tration Minister Bornito de Sousa and included Construction Minister Waldemar Pires Alexandre, Urbanisation Minister Branca do Espírito Santo, Secretary of State for the Interior Eugénio Laborinho, Lunda Norte Governor Ernesto Muangala, Lunda Sul Governor Cândida Narciso and Endiama chairperson and CEO Carlos Sumbula. The celebration of the mine opening was combined with the celebration of 14 years of peace and national reconciliation.
In his address, Queiroz described Tcheji as a medium-sized operation and as one of the fruits of peace. He also affirmed that government is working on measures to revive the diamond sector in the country. This is because it is a strong option to increase and diversify tax revenues, which will support the national budget. Last year, Angola’s diamond production came to more than 9-million carats and this figure would be boosted by the start of operations at Tcheji.
Diamonds continue to dominate the country’s mining sector. The precious stones are currently Angola’s number two export, after oil, and the country is one of the world’s top five diamond producers. And more projects are in the pipeline. The biggest of these is Luachi, which should enter operation in 2018 and which Endiama reports has a reserve of some 350-million carats. Luachi is being developed as a joint venture between Endiama and Russian diamond group Alrosa, with an investment of $300-million. Luachi is located in Lunda Sul and could double the country’s diamond output. Another diamond project in Lunda Sul is Chiuzo.
Perhaps symbolic of the resurgence in Angola’s diamond sector was the discovery, in February, of the biggest diamond ever found in the country – a 7-cm-long, 404.2 ct stone. It was recovered at the Lulo mine, in Lunda Norte. Lulo is 40%-owned by Australia’s Lucapa Diamond Company, 32% by Endiama and 28% by private Angolan company Rosas e Pétalas.
But mining projects in other sectors are under consideration and development as well. There is a niobium exploration and mining project in Huíla province. There is a gold mining project at Mpompo, also in Huíla and copper mining projects in the provinces of Uíge and Cuanza Sul.