De Beers Group today announced it is leading a ground-breaking research project that aims to deliver carbon-neutral mining at some of the company’s operations in as few as five years.
The company’s scientists are working in close collaboration with a team of internationally-renowned scientists to investigate the potential to store large volumes of carbon at its diamond mines through the mineralisation of kimberlite ‘tailings’, the material that remains after diamonds have been removed from the ore.
De Beers Group will investigate the storage potential across its diamond mines globally. It is the first time such extensive research has been undertaken to assess the carbonation potential of kimberlite, a rare type of rock that has been found to offer ideal properties for storing carbon through mineral carbonation technologies.
The project aims to accelerate what is already a naturally occurring and safe process of extracting carbon from the atmosphere and storing it at a speed that could offset man-made carbon emissions. Scientists estimate that the carbon storage potential of kimberlite tailings produced by a diamond mine every year could offset up to 10 times the emissions of a typical mine.
De Beers Group’s Project Lead for the initiative, Dr Evelyn Mervine, said: “This project offers huge potential to completely offset the carbon emissions of De Beers’ diamond mining operations. “Mineral carbonation technologies are not new, but what is new is the application of these technologies to kimberlite ore, which is found in abundance in the tailings at diamond sites, and which offers ideal properties for the storage of very large volumes of carbon. “As part of the project, we are looking at how these existing technologies can be modified to develop specific solutions suitable for storing carbon in kimberlite tailings.
“The research is in its early stages and it may take some time before it is economically or practically achievable to tap into this full storage potential. However, even just tapping into a small amount could greatly reduce the net emissions at many of our mine sites in the near future, and possibly lead to carbon-neutral mining at some sites within the next five to ten years. “As technology improves over time, more and more carbon could feasibly be stored in kimberlite tailings, meaning we could ultimately offset more emissions than we are producing.”
Mineral carbonation is a natural or artificial process whereby rocks at the Earth’s surface react with carbon dioxide sourced from the atmosphere and lock it away in safe, non-toxic, solid carbonate materials – taking that form in kimberlite rock in this instance. The work being undertaken by the project team could have significant applications for the broader mining industry, as the ideal carbon storage characteristics of kimberlite rock are also found in rocks mined for other commodities, such as nickel and platinum.
De Beers Group CEO, Bruce Cleaver, said: “By replicating this technology at other mining operations around the world, this project could play a major role in changing the way not only the diamond industry, but also the broader mining industry, addresses the challenge of reducing its carbon footprint.
“By investing in ground-breaking projects such as this, aligned with the FutureSmart Mining™ innovation programme of our parent company, Anglo American, we have the real potential to leave a positive, long-lasting legacy for the global mining industry.” De Beers started the project in 2016. A key part of its early work was centred on supporting academic-focused mineral carbonation studies of old (pre-1912) and recent (post-2008) kimberlite tailings samples from Voorspoed Mine in South Africa, which provide a great ‘natural laboratory’ for understanding carbonation reactions in kimberlite.
Mineral carbonation potential assessment studies are currently underway for Venetia Mine in South Africa and Gahcho Kué Mine in Canada. Further research and detailed studies will continue in 2017 and 2018 to assess the carbonation potential at these and other De Beers Group mines.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”