In the media

Diamond producer to spend R100m in two years on second phase of Lace project

07 December 2007

Source: Mineweekly

Author: Esmarie Swanepoel

Diamond producer Diamond-Corp plans to spend about R100-million over the next two years on the second phase of the company’s Lace mine development project.

This phase will see the operation going from tailings treatment to underground mining.

DiamondCorp CEO Paul Louden says the tailings act as a window into the main Lace pipe, and are indicative of the high-quality diamonds, which will be available during phase 2.

This phase will entail sinking a decline shaft into the unmined portion of the Lace satellite pipe, which was only mined by openpit methods to a depth of 50 m. Bulk testing, followed by trial underground mining of the satellite pipe kimberlite, through the decline shaft, will be undertaken simultaneously with the refurbishment of the existing 360-m-deep vertical shaft, which provides access to the main Lace pipe.

DiamondCorp GM Paul Sharples says that a decline system was chosen for three reasons, the first of which is to mitigate the risk of underground mudslides and floods. “The intention is that we go down into the hole just below the bottom of the pit to test for slime. If there is slime down there, we can attack it from a position of height.”

The second reason, says Sharples, is cost. “It is a lot cheaper to go down with a decline than with a vertical shaft.”

The third reason is to simplify equipment movement, and to give easy and quick access to the shaft.

The phase 2 development has potential for a 20-year mine life, and to extract up to 35-million tons of kimberlite from the primary Lace pipe between the 100-m and 800-m levels. It will also take the workforce from 104 people to about 224 people.

The operation was launched this year and has not been without its share of trouble, the most significant of which is load-shedding and power outages owing to bad weather.

“The first and second months were profitable, but during October, we had a lot of power outages and load-shedding. We have lost about 12 operational days for the month.”

This flux in electricity should, however, be a thing of the past, come January. Loudens says that DiamondCorp has entered into an agreement with Eskom and the De Beers-owned Voorspoed mine to tap into a substation that Voorspoed is building.

“The total cost of the substation will be about R10-million, but that is part of the phase 2 capex for next year,” says Louden.

He adds that the extra electricity will have a significant impact on the mine’s operations, and presents yet another benefit. “The law states that to go underground, you need two shafts, but also that you need two separate sources of power so that each shaft is connected to its own power source.”

Louden says that the company has also entered into an agree- ment with its two black economic-empowerment partners, Shanduka Resources and Sphere Investment with each investing R13-million in the project.

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