Riaan Burger, General Manager, Namdeb Diamond Corp.

MACIG Connect Series

“While the mid-water areas are very important, a huge part of Namdeb’s future is beach accretion of the Southern Coastal Mining area.”

Namdeb currently has eight mining licenses under its purview. Which of these are currently being prioritized?

Riaan Burger (RB): Namdeb Diamond Corp. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Namdeb Holdings (Proprietary) Ltd., which is owned in equal shares (50:50) by the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers. Namdeb Holdings holds nine licenses for both marine and land mining.

Namdeb performs land-based prospecting (exploration), mining, and rehabilitation operations within eight of these license areas on behalf of Namdeb Holdings. The heart of the operation is along the southwest coast of Namibia with the main, land-based operations in Oranjemund and satellite mines near Lüderitz and along the Orange River.

The focus is always the Southern Coastal Mining license. This license (ML43) has remained the key contributor to Namdeb and prior to that CDM since 1936.

In terms of feasibility and production, how far along is the Sendelingsdrif mine?

RB: The Sendelingsdrif mine is currently in full production. This mine falls within the Orange River mining license, which is ML 42 and is situated approximately 70km from the main land based operations in Oranjemund and 20km south of the town of Rosh Pinah. Sendelingsdrif Mine is the second largest diamond deposit within the Orange River Mines’ mining license area, after Daberas mine.

Sendelingsdrif mine was constructed as part of Namdeb on-going program to extend the life of its mining operations, as a means to ensure continues sustainable value creation for its shareholders, and the people of Namibia.

Sendelingsdrif was designed to minimize the impact on the environment, with continuous progressive rehabilitation during mining, as well as dry screening (screening without water) to minimize water and power consumption while maintaining the lowest unit cost for operation. This is managed through Namdeb’s robust environmental management program and will ensure that the area is restored to its original state as close as possible post-mining operations.

Our operations all fall within the Sperrgebiet National Park. This area has been largely undisturbed by man, being a restricted diamond area for the last hundred years. Mining is a finite business, and the park is a precious asset for the country as a means of eco-tourism. We are operating in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the country, knowing that it will be used for nature-based tourism in the future. It is thus very important to make sure that we minimize the impact of our operations, and we have made an incredible effort to protect the area and rehabilitate some of the historic mining operations.

In light of the future use of the park area, we have decided not to construct a tailings dump and to return waste material to the mining pits in a continuous rehabilitation process. We have also only built a very small fine tailings disposal pit, by constructing a dry front-end for the operation, and only introducing water later in the process. While this design comes with its own set of unique challenges, it has resulted in a substantially smaller ecological footprint, reduced working costs, and lower power and water requirements.

The Namdeb group is the largest contributor of income to the national treasury. What is the most influential way in which Namdeb is giving back to the local community of Namibia?

RB: As you say, Namdeb Holdings is a significant contributor of revenue for Namibia, and this is of course used for the positive development in the country. Namdeb employs about 1,800 people directly, as well as a large number of contractors. On top of that, supporting businesses that provide goods and services to Namdeb employs many more people. It is estimated that for each employee, at least seven other individuals are given employment through secondary work.

Namdeb also has a unique situation where the town of Oranjemund was created by and entirely dependent upon the mine until very recently. Namdeb also supports both the local schools and still owns the hospital facilities, providing medical care to the town residents. The town has recently been proclaimed and Namdeb is working hand-in-hand with the Oranjemund Town Council to transfer services and diversify the economy of the town to reduce the dependence on diamond mining.

Last year, Namdeb announced its intentions to further develop mid-water licenses and have them running by 2018. Is this initiative still on target?

RB: Namdeb is still in the process of exploring and developing the mid-water licenses. The geology of the mid-water deposits is in most cases closely aligned to the land operations, and quite different to the Atlantic 1 Mining license.

While the mid-water areas are very important, a huge part of Namdeb’s future is beach accretion of the Southern Coastal Mining area. Part of the mining process is to push back the sea by dumping sand to create new beaches, on which we can mine. One can however only push back the coastline if you have a solid understanding of the mineral resource. In order to achieve this, Namdeb has a Probe Drill Platform (PDP) that drills holes through the sediment into the bedrock. This process allows us to infer if there is a desirable resource in the surf zone and from there we start the accretion process.

A major consideration for us remains the environmental impact of all our operations, and utmost care is taken to apply the best practices in this regard. One of the advantages of diamond mining is that we do not use chemicals in our process, and in our coastal operations, only seawater is used in the process. We also essentially only recycle the beach sand that has been deposited by the sea and Orange River over millions of years.

How impactful has the new Red Area Complex (RAC) sorting facility been?

RB: The RAC is testimony to Namdeb’s on-going drive for innovation and technological advancements to ensure greater efficiency and sustainability of Namdeb operations.

The facility is an absolutely key asset for Namdeb, as it allows us to recover more diamonds in the same amount of time. After all the capital and working costs are invested, we must minimize the potential loss in the final recovery. This facility offers the best technology for optimal diamond recovery, and having the right x-ray technology that was developed by De Beers is unquestionably critical for this process.

The processing plant is economical as it is giving us more carats. The process is automated and utilizes minimal staff, which is more secure and contributes to minimizing diamond theft. All of our mining sources can go through this one facility, decreasing any potential losses.

What are Namdeb’s strategic goals for the year to come?

RB: Namdeb’s vision is to remain being a prevalent player in Namibia to 2050 and beyond. We have no doubt that the ore body can support that vision; we just have to have the innovation, technology, and ability to target and mine the right areas with the right systems. Namdeb currently has a mine plan until 2035 and, if everything goes according to plan, the mine plan will further grow in years to come. The current market conditions are challenging and, for the next year, we will primarily focus on remaining profitable. We will, however, continue to invest in human capital, technology and innovation that will ensure that we accomplish our vision.

This interview was part of research being conducted by GBR for its upcoming Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) 2016. A pre-release report on the Central African Copperbelt was released in October 2015 and can be accessed here. To participate in this report, please contact Molly Concannon at mconcannon@gbreports.com or