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Technology | Economy - Development

Marine diamond mining off Namibia resumed

afrol News, 9 June - The vessel MV Kovambo, with an integrated seabed crawler and a diamond processing plant onboard, today started its marine diamond mining operations off the Namibian coast. With this upgraded and technically advanced vessel, gem mining in Namibia enters one of its final chapters.

The Canadian company Diamond Fields International today announced that the vessel MV Kovambo commenced diamond mining on the company's marine mining license ML111 located near Lüderitz, Namibia, under the terms of the joint venture agreement with Samicor Mining Services. Samicor is owned by the Leviev Group of Companies, one of the world's major diamond companies.

Over the past 10 days, Samicor's chartered vessel MV Kovambo - with the integrated third generation seabed crawler and onboard diamond processing plant - had "undergone and successfully completed commissioning and sea trials off the southwest coast of South Africa," Diamond Fields reported.

The MV Kovambo is a 104 metre, 3,300 ton vessel equipped with an integrated mining and processing system developed at a cost of approximately US$ 30 million, including the upgraded seabed crawler mining tool, launch, recovery and heave compensation equipment, a 50 tonne per hour dense media processing plant, and a high security final recovery X-ray sorting plant.

The "seabed crawler" technology is a 160 tonne remotely controlled tracked mining vehicle with very high production capacity. Altogether, the vessel represents a cutting edge technology in offshore diamond mining, almost exclusively developed for the conditions off the south-west African coast.

- The mining system installed on MV Kovambo has proved itself capable of consistently high production levels in the geological conditions found in the Marshal Fork marine deposits, Diamond Field reports. The seabed crawler mining system had successfully been deployed in the Namibian Minerals Corporation's (Namco) Lüderitz Bay Grant (ML51) license area, which is immediately adjacent to Diamond Fields' Marshall Fork concession.

The vessel originally commenced mining operations in 1998 on Namco's cross concession boundary extensions to the Marshall Fork deposits, and in total produced approximately 400,000 carats of 95 percent gem quality diamonds. Production from these extensions peaked at over 200,000 carats in 1999, including a single day when 16,271 carats were recovered.

Since that, diamond production has however slowly been reduced off the Namibian coast. After Namibia's onshore diamond mines first started to get exhausted, mining companies started focusing on gems off the coast, where they had been taken by flooding rivers during the centuries.

While inland diamond deposits "could be depleted" within the next 10 to 15 years, according to the Bank of Namibia, the country's offshore diamond industry is expected to survive for a much longer time. This however presupposes that new discoveries are made and new licenses are handed out.

Meanwhile the MV Kovambo is opening one of the final chapters in Namibia's diamond mining history, to the joy of the Canadian company operating it. "We are obviously very pleased to be resuming diamond production on schedule at Marshall Fork, now that the MV Kovambo is on site and mining has commenced," commented today Diamond Fields President Gregg Sedun.

- The MV Kovambo's demonstrated production capability should optimise development of our outstanding marine diamond resource, Mr Sedun added. "We look forward to a significant increase in the level of diamond production from ML111, resulting in enhanced cash flow for the company."

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