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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: Africa: August 9th 2004


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:: Kimberley on Diamond Comeback

Diamond group De Beers yesterday officially opened the R1-billion combined treatment plant (CTP) in the Northern Cape, signifying a revival of gem production in the historic diamond town of Kimberley. The plant was opened by De Beers chairperson Nicky Oppenheimer, together with Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The CTP, which has been in commissioning phase since December 2001, is designed to process 20 000 t/d of previously discarded material. However, it is still failing to meet its nameplate capacity and is currently processing between 16 000 t/d and 17 000 t/d. De Beers is, therefore, reportedly looking at spending additional capital to debottleneck the process in a bid to reach the targeted production rate.

One of the interventions planned is a R20-million-plus project to raise the fines-processing capacity of the dense-media-separation plant, which is a key bottleneck, as it has been found that there is a higher ratio of fine-to-coarse material than previously anticipated. The company is also taking steps, and spending capital, to improve ore-preparation before the material enters the plant itself.

Oppenheimer said he was confident the teething problems would be overcome, adding that the CTP will play a significant role in the life of Kimberley, the Northern Cape and De Beers for many years to come. He said that the plant would process seven-million tons a year, yielding 1.7-million carats annually for the next 20 to 30 years. At that rate of production, Kimberley would be producing more diamonds in volume not value terms than it had since 1913.

The entire project has been made possible by innovative technology developed in-house by De Beers, and the company is looking to use this same technology at its other mines in South and Southern Africa. It is understood, for instance, that the Finsch mine, also in the Northern Cape, is planning to seek capital for a similar processing project along side its dumps.




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