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Slow recovery of global diamond market extends ODC closure

The economic shock occasioned by COVID-19 on the global diamond market has delivered the heaviest blow to Botswanas wholly state owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), the worst since its establishment in 2012.

While other diamond operations across the value chain gradually reopen, ODC will remain closed until diamond market conditions fully recover. This was revealed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Mmetla Masire this week.

Following a slow year for the global diamond industry in 2019 owing to the US-China trade war, the industry realized a slight upswing in the first month of 2020, spilling over from recovery signs in late 2019.

However all that was reversed by COVID-19. The virus, which broke in late 2019 in the Wuhan province of China intensified in February, spreading across the world, curtailing movements and international travels.

With the diamond industry, global lockdowns and travel restrictions resulted in muted rough diamond trade, closure of cutting and polishing firms, jewelry outlets and other segments of trade across the value chain.

Mmetla Masire noted that key markets like India are still relatively closed with little demand for rough import for those in operation, as inventories are still swamped up with stock piles. ODC will remain closed because demand of rough diamonds globally is still very low, so ODC management took a decision to remain closed until demand fully recovers, he said.

Masire reiterated that major markets for Botswana diamonds such as United States are still on lockdown. He said, ODC sells its diamonds through auctions; it is still very difficult to hold auctions as of now, so the company will remain closed, with management working from home.

Okavango Diamond Corporation (ODC) is a wholly state owned diamond marketing and sales company established in 2012 to sell Botswana diamonds outside De Beerss channels and price books.

ODC markets and sells 15 % of Debswana diamonds after being sorted and valued by Diamond Trading Company (DTCB), while 85 % is sold by De Beers Global Sightholder Sales (DBGSS). Debswana and DTCB are 50-50 ventures of De Beers Group and Botswana Government. DBGSS is wholly owned by De Beers Group.

Botswana Government has a direct 15 % stake in De Beers Group, the remaining 85 % of De Beers Group is owned by Anglo American. Over 60 % of De Beers global production comes from Botswana (Debswana). Meanwhile Debswana, Diamond Trading Company (DTCB), De Beers Global Sightholder Sales (DBGSS) have opened and resumed operations at 60- 70 % workforce.

Mmetla Masire further revealed that DBGSS has started shipping some diamonds to their sightholders in a bid to cultivate market and trading activity amid COVID-19 imposed new normal.

OKAVANGO BLUE YET TO SELL

Okavango Diamond Company has also deferred the sale of Okavango Blue, the magnificent oval shaped blue diamond weighing over 20 carats, unearthed at Debswana Orapa mine at over 40 carats rough weight in 2018.

The sparkling Type IIb Fancy Deep Blue unveiled to the world in Gaborone as 20 carats polished last year is yet to sell as demand and prices are still very low to inspire purchase of such a magnificent gem.

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), has graded the diamond as an Oval Brilliant Cut, VVS2 clarity making it one of the highest polished colour classifications attainable for any blue diamond and at 20.46 carats it sits in the very top bracket of all-time historical blue diamond finds.

Its unique and vibrant blue colour, is created by the molecular inclusion of the rare mineral boron which between 1-3 billion years ago was present in the rocks of ancient oceans during violent diamond forming volcanic activity. Okavango Blue will be showcased over the coming months to promote Botswana as a leading global producer of natural ethical diamonds with an anticipated sale toward the end of the year.

GLOBAL DIAMOND INDUSTRY CRISIS

A couple of months into serious measures to slow the spread of the virus, it has already squashed diamond miners dawning hopes of a recovery. Alrosa the worlds largest diamond producer by output, last week reported 95% decline in sales during April, when gauged against the same months last year. This resulted the Russian state-owned deciding to halt production at two of its mines, citing worsening market conditions.

De Beers, the worlds largest producer by value, cut 2020 production guidance by a fifth last month. It had earlier cancelled its April sales event. Canadas Dominion Diamond Mines, the controlling owner of Ekati mine and a 40% partner to Rio Tinto in the Diavik mine, filed for insolvency protection in April.

Lucara Diamond another Canadian company, posted last week a net loss of $3.2 million, or $0.01 a share, for the first three months of the year. The figure was in sharp contrast with the $7.4 million in net income, or $0.02 in earning per share the miner reported in the same period last year.

South Africas Petra Diamonds has recently delayed interest payments to borrow $21 million in new debt, a crucial move to keep the company afloat. Investment banks are increasingly reluctant to extend credit to diamond producers, as inventory is not being sold and defaults are possible, analysts have warned.

We are concerned about oversupply of rough diamonds following the reopening of economies, as a lot of inventory could potentially be flooded into the system and the market might not be able to absorb all of it, resulting in increased pricing pressure, said leading European diamond industry think tank, Learnbonds in a statement early this month.

Business

New Khoemacau owners commit to mine’s multibillion Pula expansion

6th December 2023

The future of Botswana’s largest copper and silver operation, Khoemacau Copper Mining, looks promising as the new owners, MMG Group, commit to the mine’s expansion plans. MMG, an Australian headquartered company owned by China, has expressed its dedication to doubling Khoemacau’s production and transforming it into one of the most significant high-grade copper operations in Africa.

Nan Wang, the Executive General Manager for Australia and Africa at MMG, stated that while the immediate focus is on maintaining a consistent production level of 60ktpa, there are solid plans to increase Khoemacau’s production capacity. The company aims to double its production from 3.65Mtpa to 8.15Mtpa, resulting in an increase in payable copper from approximately 60ktpa to around 130ktpa.

To achieve this expansion, Khoemacau has completed a pre-feasibility study on the project and a solar power initiative. The next step is to conduct a feasibility study, which will pave the way for increased production capacity. Additionally, Khoemacau has identified extensive exploration opportunities across its license area, positioning the company for an exciting new phase of development.

The current Khoemacau operation reached full production and nameplate capacity in December 2022, following over a decade of investment totaling over P10 billion. This significant investment allowed for an intense exploration program, resulting in the development of the most automated underground mining operation in Botswana. The first concentrate was produced in June 2021, and the product entered the export market in July of the same year. Throughout 2022, the company has been working on the pre-feasibility study for the expansion project, with the feasibility study scheduled for the following year.

The expansion plans will involve the construction of a new world-class process plant in Zone 5, where the current mining of ore takes place. This new plant will be larger than the existing one in Boseto, which currently receives ore from Zone 5. The expansion will also involve the development of new underground mines, including Mango, Zone 5 North, and Zeta North East. These additional mines will bring the total number of underground shafts at Khoemacau to six. The ramp-up of production from the expansion is expected to occur in 2026.

Khoemacau, which acquired assets in the Kalahari Copper Belt after the liquidation of Discovery Metals in 2015, currently employs over 1500 people, with the majority being Batswana. The Khoemacau Mine is located in north-west Botswana, in the emerging Kalahari Copperbelt. It boasts the 10th largest African Copper Mineral Resource by total contained copper metal and is one of the largest copper sedimentary systems in the world outside of the Central African Copperbelt.

The mine utilizes underground long hole stoping as its mining method and conventional sulphide flotation for processing. Resource drilling results have shown the existing resources to have continuity at depth, and there are several exploration targets within the tenement package that have the potential to extend the mine’s life or increase productivity.

The Zone 5 mine has already ramped up production, and further expansion in the next five years will be supported by the deposits in the Zone 5 Group. The estimated mine life is a minimum of 20 years, with the potential to extend beyond 30 years by tapping into other deposits within the tenement package.

In conclusion, the commitment of MMG Group to Khoemacau’s expansion plans signifies a bright future for Botswana’s largest copper and silver operation. With the completion of pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, as well as significant investments, Khoemacau is poised to become one of Africa’s most important high-grade copper operations. The expansion project will not only increase production capacity but also create new job opportunities and contribute to the economic growth of Botswana.

 

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Business

Khoemacau Copper Mining to be acquired by MMG Limited

6th December 2023

Khoemacau Copper Mining, a leading copper mining company, has recently announced its acquisition by MMG Limited, a global resources company based in Australia. This acquisition marks a significant milestone for both companies and demonstrates their commitment to continued investment, growth, and sustainability in the mining industry.

MMG Limited is a renowned mining company that operates copper and other base metals projects across four continents. With its headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, MMG has a strong track record in mining and exploration. The company currently operates several successful mines, including the Dugald River zinc mine and the Rosebery polymetallic mine in Australia, the Kinsevere copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Las Bambas Mine in Peru. MMG’s extensive experience and expertise in mining operations make it an ideal partner for Khoemacau.

MMG’s commitment to sustainability aligns perfectly with Khoemacau’s values and priorities. Khoemacau has always placed a strong emphasis on safety, health, community, and the environment. MMG shares this commitment and applies the principles of good corporate governance as set out in the Corporate Governance Code of the Hong Kong Listing Rules. As a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), MMG adheres to sustainable mining principles, ensuring responsible and ethical practices in all its operations.

Over the past 12 years, Khoemacau’s current shareholders have made significant investments in the development of the company. With approximately US$1 billion deployed in the project, Khoemacau has successfully transformed from an exploration and discovery phase to a fully-fledged operating copper mine. The completion of the ramp-up of the Zone 5/Boseto operations has set the stage for the next phase of expansion.

With the acquisition by MMG, Khoemacau is poised for an exciting new chapter in its development. The completion of a pre-feasibility study on the Khoemacau expansion and a solar power project has paved the way for increased production capacity. The feasibility study will be the next step in doubling the production capacity from 3.65 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) to 8.15 Mtpa, resulting in a significant increase in payable copper from approximately 60,000 tonnes per annum (ktpa) to 130,000 ktpa. Additionally, Khoemacau has extensive exploration opportunities across its license area, further enhancing its growth potential.

The CEO of Khoemacau, Johan Ferreira, expressed his gratitude to the current owners for their stewardship of the company and their successful transformation of Khoemacau into a fully operational copper mine. He also highlighted the company’s focus on the expansion study and its vision for the future with MMG. Ferreira emphasized that the partnership with MMG will ensure Khoemacau’s long-term success, delivering employment, community benefits, and economic development in Botswana.

MMG Chairman, Jiqing Xu, echoed Ferreira’s sentiments, stating that the acquisition of Khoemacau aligns with MMG’s growth strategy and vision. Xu emphasized MMG’s commitment to creating opportunities for all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, and communities. He expressed confidence in Khoemacau’s expansion potential and the company’s ability to realize its full potential with the support of MMG.

The sale of Khoemacau to MMG is subject to certain conditions precedent and approvals, with the expected closing date in the first half of 2024. This acquisition represents a significant step forward for both companies and reinforces their commitment to sustainable mining practices, responsible resource development, and long-term growth in the mining industry.

In conclusion, the acquisition of Khoemacau Copper Mining by MMG Limited signifies a new era of investment, growth, and sustainability in the mining industry. With MMG’s extensive experience and commitment to responsible mining practices, Khoemacau is well-positioned for future success. The partnership between the two companies will not only drive economic development but also ensure the safety and well-being of employees, benefit local communities, and contribute to the overall growth of Botswana’s mining sector.

 

 

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Business

BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy

6th December 2023

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.

The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.

Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.

The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.

Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.

Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.

In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.

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