Debswana has been operating in a sustained, profitable open pit mining environment for over fifty years and it is forecasted that the same favourable business climate will prevail over the next 15 to 20 years. Notwithstanding this, for Jwaneng Mine, the post Cut 9 business case evaluation paints a different picture which proves that no further open pit cutback will yield a positive business case for the mine. This resulted in the direction of future Jwaneng mining projects being directed to underground alternatives.
Debswana intends to develop a safe and viable underground mine to sustain production of diamonds after Cut 9 open pit operations. It will be developed based on the latest proven technology, global benchmarks and full adherence to sustainability imperatives. This includes the journey to carbon neutrality for the organisation. This operation will exploit resources at ever increasing depth, down to approximately 1000m below ground level, where significant diamond resources remain after Cut 9. It will use mass mining methods for the underground mine such as block-, sub-level and incline caving. With the end of open pit operations, expected to be in 2032 when the current Cut 9 reaches its economic limit, the remaining diamond resources from the three kimberlite pipes (Centre, North and South) can sustain current production levels and further extend the Jwaneng mine life beyond 2050.
A phased approach has been adopted as the lowest risk strategy to develop an underground mine to meet the schedule to sustain production after end of open pit mining. This approach requires an Early Exploration Access Decline for implementation in 2023, which will provide the platform to launch Phase 1 Mining of the indicated resource starting 2028 to allow for full ramp up by 2032. It will simultaneously allow for drilling of inferred resources at depth for the acquisition of critical resource and geotechnical data for later mining phases.
This project is aligned to the "Debswana Tomorrow" pillar of the 2024 strategy which is aimed at the successful execution of expansion projects. The "Debswana Tomorrow" pillar is under the ambit of H2 Projects and their core mandate is to provide shareholders and stakeholders with a view of the long-term investment decisions and their implications on capex, distributions, return on investment etc.
To achieve the underground mine development timelines and to avert the production gap after Cut 9, the Jwaneng Underground project will need to expedite the skills transition plan. This will assume a two-phased approach:
• The early skills development plan which is aimed at developing competent skills whilst building the Early Exploration Access Decline with a Contractor
• The Phase 1 and Phase 2 skills development plan designed to sustain owner development and production once the Contractor has completed the Early Exploration Access Decline.