The De Beers Group of Companies has announced that it will invest about R20 billion (US$2.25 billion) to build a new underground mine beneath the currently operating opencast Venetia mine in Limpopo.The company said that, upon completion, the new underground mine will extend the life of Venetia until 2042 and replace the open pit as South Africa‘s largest diamond mine.This announcement follows the receipt of the final outstanding regulatory clearances earlier this month. “Our investment in Venetia enables us to provide greater certainty around long-term supply for our Sightholders, particularly those with manufacturing operations in South Africa. Our Sightholders have significant investments in the local cutting industry and this new underground mine will provide a large and predictable supply of rough diamonds for decades to come,” explained De Beers Group‘s CEO, Philippe Mellier. The development and build phase of the underground mine is expected to create 1 000 jobs over the next nine years while opencast mining operations continue. Underground operations will begin production in 2021, yielding about 96 million carats during the life of the mine and securing more than 3 ,000 jobs. The project will employ semi-skilled and skilled workers, drawn primarily from the region and trained for the project.Most of these workers will acquire technical skills that will enhance the countrys technical skill resource base. The bulk of all equipment and services will be sourced in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Mellier said that the announcement comes at a crucial time in De Beer‘s history. “It is fitting that De Beers is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. From our founding in Kimberley in 1888 to our announcement at Venetia, South Africa has always been the ancestral heart of De Beers. It is gratifying that today’s announcement means that De Beers will remain South Africa‘s leading diamond company until at least our 150th anniversary.”Further, Barend Petersen, chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM), pointed out that the company saw this significant capital investment as another concrete example of its commitment to the South African mining industry. “South Africa’s economy was built on its mining industry following the discovery of diamonds in 1866. Almost 150 years later, the country is a diverse economy, while mining remains an integral part of the aspiration to build a more prosperous and equitable South Africa.” The Venetia Mine underground project was approved in 2012 by the De Beers and Anglo American boards. Environmental authorisation was granted in July 2012 and the Environmental Management Plan was approved by the Department of Mineral Resources in October. The final outstanding regulatory clearances were obtained earlier this month. “The De Beers Venetia Underground project team have been assessing the safest and most economic options to extend the mining operations at Venetia Mine and unlock the extensive ore reserves beneath the open pit. Venetia will play a major role in the future of De Beers and we have therefore been preparing for years to meet tight deadlines and high standards so that Venetia Underground is ready to begin producing South African diamonds by 2021, stated Phillip Barton, CEO of DBCM.