After two years of being on shutdown, Damtshaa Mine is back in production. Debswana’s youngest Mine was put on temporary shutdown at the height of the global economic meltdown in late 2008 when the market demand for diamonds dipped significantly, resulting in the need to scale down production. Operational staff was re-deployed to other areas, leaving only skeletal maintenance crew on site.
However, a gradual recovery of the world economy and the increase in demand for rough diamonds in the first half of 2011 prompted Debswana management to begin the process of re-opening Damtshaa Mine. According to Process Engineer at Damtshaa, George Togara, for the best part of 2011, the plant has been undergoing major refurbishment in preparation for the 2012 production year. “The primary section has been successfully commissioned and the first feed dropped onto the Dense Media Separation (DMS) stockpile in mid- October,” Togara said. He further said that this was achieved after six months of extensive work to repair the equipment in the section which included the grizzly crushers.
He said the fact that the DMS plant had stood idle for a long time meant that most of the equipment had deteriorated beyond usable condition. This section, which comprises two streams, had borne the brunt of years of corrosive environment and posed the biggest challenge to bring it back to life. “New equipment had to be manufactured and installed, and those which could be salvaged were repaired to immaculate condition,” he said.
Togara, who led the restoration project, further stated that the plant started production by the first day of the 2012 production year (15 December) and by the end of November, the first concentrate was produced.
“Not only were the timelines adhered to, this milestone was also achieved within budget,” he said. He further pointed out that the equipment has been readied for operation and people have been mobilised and inducted, Damtshaa is now geared to full ex-pit mining activities according to the 2012 revised mining plan. In this plan, Damtshaa is expected to process 2.2m tons of stockpile material for the recovery of some 300,000 carats.
Togara also revealed that the plant’s capability is being made flexible to promptly adapt to improvements in market demands during the course of the year.
“The first few days of production have come with challenges as personnel and machinery are gelling to focus on one common goal of producing carats,” stated Togara. He also revealed that some critical equipment was lost in the first few weeks due to fatigue, while new employees took time to adapt to the new environment. He said that despite the setback, the employees at Damtshaa are confident that production challenges will be overcome just as quickly as the plant was rejuvenated.
He applauded the dedication and commitment shown by the Damtshaa team which he said had ensured that the project to re-open the Mine was completed on time and that the Mine quickly resumed its status as a contributor to a robust and high performance organisation.