Botswana Diamonds begins mining in South Africa

Drilling an anomaly on Thorny River. (Image courtesy of Botswana Diamonds.)

Botswana Diamonds (LON: BOD) has begun mining at Marsfontein in South Africa, as a proof-of-concept trial project that it expects will help improve operations at its larger Thorny River project.

The company, which has faced challenges including plant delivery delays and adverse weather, said it’s now on track to start production at Thorny River in the second half of this year. 

Botswana Diamonds is working on bringing the two projects — Marsfontein and Thorny River — into production this year.

Marsfontein is currently processing 500 tonnes a day of dumps and gravels, the miner said. Although diamonds are being produced, the company said it did not yet have an accurate representation of the average grade and quality.

Drilling on the Thorny River kimberlite dyke system over the past two years helped identified two areas of interest for commercial mining

Following a preliminary assessment of Thorny River’s kimberlite potential, the company estimated last year that the asset hosted about 2 million tonnes of kimberlitic material, up from the 1.2 million previously determined.

Botswana Diamonds said on Wednesday it expects the grade of the two deposits to be between 46 carats per hundred tonnes (cpht) and 74 cpht of good-quality diamonds.

“We plan to mine these hotspots using the same operational approach as at Marsfontein, for a 15% production royalty agreement,” chairperson John Teeling said in the statement. “However, most early-stage investors in the company continue to support new funding efforts.”

The executive noted that Marsfontein and Thorny River will deliver cash with no further capital expenditure.

Eying growth

The company, which also has interests in Botswana, is undertaking an acquisition of 50% of ten prospecting licences in the central Kalahari, through local partner Future Minerals and 51%-owned subsidiary Siseko.

It is also seeking to find a new joint venture partner to acquire the Ghaghoo mine, which former owner Gem Diamonds (LON: GEMD) placed on care and maintenance before selling it.

Ghaghoo is fully permitted to end-December 2036 and is located close to BOD’s KX36 project, the company noted.

The country of Botswana is Africa’s top diamond producer in terms of value and the second biggest in terms of production. 

Despite overall mining output from the country rising by 8.2% in 2022, the nation believes that gains in copper and coal will not offset the decline of its diamond sector. 

Earlier this month, the government said it expected diamond output to decline by 1%, while diamond trading growth is seen slowing to 7% from 41% last year.