Felix Njini

NAMDEB, Namibia’s joint venture with Anglo American unit De Beers, intended to mine the precious stones on land and from the ocean until at least 2050 by deploying new technology, it said yesterday.

Maintaining operations for that long would depend on “continuous innovation” and “investing in new technology to mine mid-water areas”, Pauline Thomas, a spokeswoman for Namdeb, said.

Namdeb on November 8 opened its Sendelingsdrif mine and diamond recovery complex, built at a combined cost of N$528 million (R528m), as part of what it calls Project 2050.

The mine is Namdeb’s second largest in the Orange River licence area. Thomas declined to give its targeted production capacity.

The Orange River formed the world’s richest marine-diamond deposit by laying down an estimated 80 million carats of gems off the coast of Namibia.

The country was in talks with De Beers for a sales agreement to replace their 2007 pact and intended to complete this before the end of next month, Mines and Energy Minister Isak Katali said last week.

“Financing of projects in Namibia is done on a case-by-case basis,” Thomas said from Windhoek. “We have two strong shareholders in the government of Namibia and De Beers.”

Namdeb’s production rose 6 percent to 1.76 million carats last year, with two-thirds of that coming from marine-mining operations. The company’s research and development effort “looks at investigating new technologies to profitably mine the wetter areas in the inshore and inner-shelf part of Namdeb’s onshore licences”, Thomas said.

Debmarine Namibia, the joint venture’s ocean-mining unit, contracted Norway-based Kleven Verft to build a new deepwater exploration vessel. It was due to be delivered in 2016, adding to an existing fleet of five, Debmarine said last month. – Bloomberg