New mining vessel boasts latest technology

4th May 2007 By: Creamer Media Reporter

At a ceremony held in Cape Town recently, diamond-mining giant De Beers celebrated the naming and blessing of Peace in Africa, the first marine diamond mining ship to operate in the South African sea area.

According to De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) MD David Noko this ceremony is a significant milestone in the history of mining in South Africa as it marks the country’s advent into the sector of marine mining.

Although De Beers has been actively involved in marine diamond mining off the coast of Namibia since 1990, Peace in Africa will be the first vessel used to mine the Atlantic ocean bed off the west cost of South Africa.
Noko elaborates that the Peace in Africa vessel is the culmination of 23 years of exploration and investigation into the potential of mining the deep-sea areas off the Namaqualand coast.

In addition to this extensive time-frame, the Peace in Africa vessel required a capital investment of R1,2-billion, R500-million of which was spent on the on-board, state-of-the-art treatment plant.

DBCM, which is the owner and operator of Peace in Africa, will use similar technology as that deployed off the Namibian coast where marine production exceeds that from land-based mines.

The vessel will be equipped with a large undersea tracked mining crawler and a specialised diamond recovery treatment plant on board.

In fact, De Beers Marine Namibia, using its five mining vessels, mined one-million carats off the Namibian coast in 2006.
“The production expected from the South African sea areas offers the prospect of additional, good-quality, profitable diamond production for De Beers, which will make a valuable contribution to the South African economy,” contends Noko.

“Mining is expected to commence in June this year and, once fully commissioned, the mining vessel is expected to yield approximately 240 000 carats a year, with an estimated operating life of 30 years.”

According to DBCM project manager Glenn Black Peace in Africa will mine for an average of 17 hours a day, weather permitting, and will mine an average of 60 diamonds an hour.

Should results from this marine mining operation exceed expectations, De Beers will certainly be considering additional vessels, continues Noko.

“We believe that this new venture illustrates our confidence in the future of diamond mining in South Africa, coming as it does just six months after the start of construction of the companies new one-million carat a year Voorspoed mine in the Free State.”
In fact, Noko elaborates that De Beers is the only mining company in the world that is building four mines – two of which are in Canada – concurrently.

“This illustrates the fact that De Beers is firmly committed to a world-wide growth drive and to securing the future of the global diamond industry.”

De Beers believes that this project will have a positive impact on the economic prospects of the communities in the Northern Cape coastal region.

“We are always conscious of the many benefits diamonds bring to local communities and, in the case of De Beers, a significant contribution will be made to the Richtersveld Community through the local economic development projects included in the Social and Labour plan, which has already been agreed to.”

Noko continues that once Peace in Africa has been commissioned, 150 new, full-time jobs and 2 000 contractual jobs will be created within Cape Town, which will primarily focus on the maintenance of the vessel.

Further to the benefits this project will have on local communities, black economic-empowerment (BEE) businesses have significantly benefited in terms of the procurement policy adopted by De Beers.

“During the development of this project, 76% of the total local procurement spend in South Africa went to BEE companies, which amounted to R344-million of the R452-million spent,” states Noko.

Noko concludes that the investment into Peace in Africa highlights the approach that De Beers has adopted as a company in terms of partnership with governments, with communities, and with local businesses, which is helping to bring wider benefits of diamond mining to producer countries.