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Debswana Mines

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The Debswana Diamond Mine is located in Botswana, Africa and is responsible for contributing approximately 30 percent of the diamonds and gems that are supplied to the world today. There are four mines in Debswana since the discovery of the first Orapa mine by De Beers in the 1960s. Three of the mines are operated by the Debswana Diamond Co. Ltd.: the Letlhakane, the Jwaneng, and the Damtshaa mine.

Debswana operates under a 50/50 partnership with both the Botswana government and the De Beers centenary.[1]

Contents

[edit] Construction History

[edit] Finding the Orapa Mine and Others

The discovery of diamonds first took place in Tuli block in 1955. In this area, three alluvial diamonds of small size were found adjacent to the Motlouste River. An indication of more gems were found by De Beers geologists who surveyed the area for two years in the village of Lethakane and Mopipi Pan. Among the findings were elmenite and garnet, two elements that predict high probability of diamondiferous kimberlite. The Orapa pipe was located in 1967. Measuring 289 acres (117 ha), it was the largest kimberlite pipe found in the vicinity. After two smaller pipes were found, the De Beers Botswana Mining Co. was formed.[2]

The third mine was the Jwaneng mine, 75 miles (120 km) west of Gaborone. The Jwaneng mine was the result of an agreement between De Beers and the government of Botswana. Construction commenced in July 1982. It was this mine that put Botswana on the map of diamond mining. The former president, Sir Ketumile, said at the official opening of the mine: “Jwaneng mine is not just any new mine but a true prince of mines—a gem in the world of gems.” This mine in particular plays a huge factor in the economy of Botswana.[3]

The final mine, the P225 million Damtshaa mine, was the most recently explored mine, having been discovered in 2003.

[edit] Mining for Diamonds

Mining for diamonds in the Debswana mines is a constant profession. The pits are open every day a week. The process of mining involves extraction, crushing, separation of waste from the valuable materials or automated stone recovery, and sorting. Orapa pulls in an average of 20Mt/y of ore and 40Mt/y of waste. To perform these operations, rotary drills and large shovels are used to extract materials from the earth. The mine utilizes electric or diesel power for its equipment and hydraulic power on occasions where electric/diesel is not possible.

The minerals are extracted and loaded by dozers, wheel loaders, and haul trucks from either Caterpillar or Komatsu. The haul trucks have an 85 to 240 stone capacity on Caterpillar 793C trucks. When the materials are loaded into the truck, a computer-based system dispatches the vehicles.

Debswana has a unique process of mining within the industry. In-pit crushing began with Debswana in the mid-1990s. The materials are crushed, and upon the secondary crushing phase, cyclones are used to differentiate the worthless materials from the diamonds. The tailings that occur from this process are further crushed and used for recycling. The materials are transported via a pneumo-drier conveyor belt designed to ensure security and protection of the diamonds.

Materials from the Orapa, Letlhakane, and Damtshaa are then transported via haul truck to a Completely Automated Recovery Plant (CARP) facility in Orapa, while materials for Jwaneng are taken to a facility on the mine’s site. The CARP on the Jwaneng site is part of an aquarium project, a De Beers project that utilizes the first-ever recovery of materials using a no-hands automatic process. Also a sorting facility, the aquarium handles materials with the use of x-ray and laser technology.[4]

The mines utilize different equipment for extraction, loading and hauling purposes. The Orapa and Letlhakane mines both use P&H blasthole drills. The Jwaneng mine crushes materials with crushers such as the Bateman semi-mobile crusher, a machine weighing 1,500 tons, capable of crushing up to 2,400 tons per hour of kimberlite.

[edit] Equipment Used

[edit] Refurbishment/Recent Projects/Renovations

The Orapa plant will undergo construction and is expected to be complete by 2010, as well as the Jwaneng plant in 2011.

A new tailings dump-treatment plant is planned for Lethakane in 2011.

[edit] References

  1. Debswana Diamond Mines, Botswana. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-24.
  2. About Debswana: History and Profile. Debswana.com, 2008-09-24.
  3. About Debswana: History and Profile. Debswana.com, 2008-09-24.
  4. Debswana Diamond Mines, Botswana. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-24.