Sperrgebiet Diamond Mining invests in conservation
Sperrgebiet Diamond Mining (SDM), the company resurrecting the historic Elizabeth Bay mine close to Lüderitz on the west coast of Namibia, is contributing towards the conservation of the unique Brown Hyena population that inhabits the coastal areas along parts of the Namib Desert.
By Leon Louw, founder and editor of WhyAfrica
The Elizabeth Bay mine is about 40km south of Lüderitz and SDM started recruiting a workforce of close to 200 employees when WhyAfrica visited the mine as part of the Southern Africa Road Trip in June.
SDM owns onshore and offshore diamond mining licences in the restricted diamond area. Its primary land-based operation is at Elizabeth Bay.
The Brown Hyena Research Project is a non-profit organisation based in Lüderitz. The project is founded and led by research scientist Dr Ingrid Wiesel, affectionately known by the community as “the hyena lady”, and her PhD student Marie Lemerle.
The project is dedicated to the conservation of the unique brown hyena population and their habitat along the coastal areas of the Namib Desert. This is a non-profit organisation that is completely reliant on sponsorship and funding.
SDM operates in a restricted diamond area which coincides with the habitat favoured by the protected brown hyena. In recognising the importance of safeguarding this species and its habitat, the company committed to a sponsorship towards the Brown Hyena Conservation.
SDM, in conjunction with Ghost Town Tours at Kolmanskop, recently hosted a joint film crew from the USA and South Africa. The crew were in the Lüderitz area for the filming of some scenes for an upcoming TV series commissioned by Amazon Studios.
While filming in Sperrgebiet Diamond Mining licensed areas, the crew were assisted by, and collaborated with, the Brown Hyena Research Project team. In recognition of this assistance, the film producers have also made a financial contribution towards the valuable work of the Brown Hyena Research Project.
Since its inception, SDM has been focused on making impactful and responsive contributions to Lüderitz. This is accomplished through the company’s support of positive endeavours and initiatives championed by town residents.
The company strives to become a sustainable development partner to the local community, the economy of Lüderitz, and the country at large.
SDM implements this mission by proactively identifying community- based improvement interventions and supporting projects that speak to economic upliftment, social cohesion, and environmental protection.
When German mining companies abandoned the area in the 1920s, they left behind a significant mining footprint. WhyAfrica visited some of these old workings during the company’s recent road trip to Namibia (in the YouTube video clip below).
Development of Elizabeth Bay mine
The recent equity investment by RZ Murowa Holdings (RZM) part of the Global Emerging Markets (GEM) group into Sperrgebiet Diamond Mining (SDM) will result in RZM acquiring a majority shareholding of 78% in SDM.
Phase 1: Initial capital investment
The first portion of capital investment will be towards the final commissioning of operational readiness phases of the project. This first phase will require an estimated NAD100-million to be directed towards:
- Plant refurbishment (Front-end, Scrubbing and plant infrastructure, new process water intake, sort house integration,
- Infrastructure upgrades (dewatering, tailings dump system and long-lead items
- Equipment replacement (crusher replacement, mobile equipment)
- Strategic spares (crushers and screens)
- Accommodation (Staff and offices)
- System upgrades (Maintenance, security and finance)
Initial Phase 1 will call for around 200 full-time jobs and attract further good and service provision from local, regional and country wide vendors. The company also aims to facilitate the growth of small and medium enterprises service delivery through direct and indirect needs created in the region.
Phase 2: Scaling opportunities
The upgrade will include the construction of an infield plant that will fulfil the role of a high-rate pre-treatment and feed preparation facility for the current main treatment plant. The Infield Pre-Treatment Facility (ITF) is estimated to treat at least 1000 tonnes per hour of gravel which will render this operation as the highest head- feed throughput rate diamond plant on the West Coast of Africa
The inclusion of the infield operation will not only double-up the head-feed but also result in doubling the capacity of the main treatment plant’s diamond production without any material changes to its process design.
The cost of the Phase 2 investments is estimated between a further NSD200-NSD250-million and will require additional mining capacity and an additional estimated 100 jobs. This upgrade should see the operations reach monthly diamond production levels of circa 40,000 carats per month and the higher profitability margins due to reduced operating unit costs and the doubling of headline revenues.
Exploration funding and the revival and development of the offshore areas
The aggressive approach will require a strong focus on mineral resource development to maintain healthy mining reserves. This will require additional exploration funding, not only for the onshore extension and satellite deposits, but also for major potential offshore that lies within the offshore portion of ML45 and the offshore licenses of ML128A and ML128B.
The investment into exploration will include building a new batch plant which will enable the company to sample the new onshore extensions and double-up as a toll-treat plant for beach and shallow water contract operators. This plant will enable the restart of contractor operations which is a much-needed revival of the smaller scale diamond mining community.
Offshore resource development will include reprocessing of geophysical data to target key areas for bulk sampling campaigns. These campaigns will include renewed survey and resource development work to pave the way for larger operating vessels to extract and recover diamonds from the deeper midwater and deeper water areas.
In the video below, Paul Lombard, General Manager of SDM tells Leon Louw of WhyAfrica about the restart of the Elizabeth Bay diamond mine.
Read more about Lüderitz and the Sperrgebiet in the September issue of WhyAfrica’s magazine, which is now digitally available on our website.
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