Debswana Diamond Company Ltd is a diamond exploration and mining company based in Botswana. Established in 1969, the company has placed Botswana on the global map as a favorite diamond producing country. Debswana is the world’s leading diamond producer by value.
It’s also one of the world’s major diamond producers by volume. Debswana is owned and managed by the Botswana government through a joint venture with De Beers. Each of the two entities stakes a 50% claim in the company. Besides diamonds, Debswana also has interests in coal.
The history of Debswana dates back to the 1950s. Around this time, geologists from the world’s leading diamond explorer, De Beers, began prospecting for diamonds in Botswana. In 1960, the geologists uncovered a diamond-bearing deposit near Orapa. And on 23 rd June 1969, the Debswana Diamond Company was founded. At the time, the corporation was known as the De Beers Botswana Mining Company.
As more diamonds were discovered on the site, the government of Botswana became highly interested in taking over the explorations. However, that could not happen, as it enjoyed a paltry 15% share. So, over the next five years, the government embarked on a mission to increase its control in the company. Its shares would later rise to 50%, the same which it stakes to date.
On 25th March 1992, the company changed its name to Debswana Diamond Company (Proprietary) Ltd. Since then, Debswana has earned its place among the most successful diamond explorers and producers in the world. Presently, the company operates four mines. The mines are; Orapa, Damtshaa, Letlhakane, and Jwaneng.
Botswana owes much of its success to diamonds, and by extension, to Debswana. In the early 60s, the country was primarily an agricultural economy. However, Botswana has since transformed into a mining country. And diamond mining accounts for nearly all the mining operations going on in the country. Botswana has been ranked among the fastest-growing economies in the Southern and Central Africa region, thanks to its rich diamond deposits. Indeed, the diamond industry in Botswana is among the largest employers in the private sector. Currently, the mining activities throughout the country employ some 5,200 people, with many more benefiting indirectly from the trade.
What makes Debswana going is its belief in safe and responsible mining activities. Besides, the company endeavors to impact the lives of the local communities positively.
Debswana’s Mining Operations
As we’ve already mentioned, Debswana operates four mining locations.
The Orapa mine is the most famous of the four. Orapa is predominantly an open-pit mine. It’s situated 240 kilometers west of Francistown. Orapa site was discovered in 1967 by a team of geologists from De Beers, led by Manfred Marx. However, operations didn’t commence immediately. It was not until July 1971 that the mine became fully operational.
Orapa is one of the few mines in the world whose official opening was witnessed by a head of state. Mining operations at Orapa take place in one volcanic pipe that’s believed to have erupted over 200 million years ago, through the Transvaal strata. The pipe splits into two separate sections - the north and the south vents.
Orapa boasts an annual diamond production of 12 million carats. Besides its immense exploration activities, Orapa town is also the administrative center for two other mines, namely Damtshaa and Letlhakane. The Orapa mine is ISO 14001-certified, which makes the site one of the most environmentally safe and sustainable. It’s among the diamond mines in the world with the fewest fatalities.
The Letlhakane mine is located 50 kilometers from the Orapa mines. The site has a history that’s as old as that of Orapa. Geologists discovered Letlhakane while sampling and evaluating works were going on at Orapa.
The mine officially opened its operations in 1975. By then, most mining activities took place in open pits. However, open-pit mining came to an end in 2017 to pave the way for underground operations. Letlhakane has a fully-operational plant. The primary function of the plant is processing of the tailings. Experts project that the plant will extend the life of this mine to 2043. The plant has an annual capacity of 800,000 carats.
Damtshaa mine comprises of four small diamond pipes. The vents include B/K1, B/K9, as well as the B/K12 and B/K 15. The pipes cover an area of 20 kilometers east of Orapa and were discovered over a five-year period between 1967 and 1972. Commissioning of the mine was done near the end of 2002. And on October 28 th 2002, the mine produced its first head feed load.
Damtshaa was opened officially on October 25th, 2003. It produces varying diamond grades, which makes it the most diversified of the four mines. The mine’s annual diamond production staggers at 0.16 million carats. Like other mining sites in Botswana, Damtshaa is relatively safe. The SABS Surveillance Audit carried out an audit on the mine and confirmed that it’s ISO14001-compliant. Damtshaa is so safe that within the first two years of its operation, there were no fatalities reported, not even sick leaves.
Last but not least is the Jwaneng Mine. The mine was discovered along the Naledi River Valley, in 1972. Exploration work began almost immediately. However, it was not fully operational until 1982. By value, the Jwaneng Mine is the world’s most productive. And due to its high quantity of precious gems, Jwaneng is Debswana’s flagship mining site. The mine contributes up to 70% of the company’s total revenue.
Mining operations generally take place across three separate volcanic vents. The pipes include the north, south, and the center pipes. Jwaneng’s annual diamond potential ranges between 10 and 15 million carats.
Debswana’s Corporate Social Responsibility
Debswana seeks to give back to the society through the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) Programme. Through this program, Debswana aims to fulfill its core values, namely, “Show We Care,” “Be Passionate” and “Shape the Future.”
Most diamond mining companies give back to the indigenous communities around their areas of operation. However, Debswana goes a notch higher. The company endeavors to impact the lives of Batswana on a national scale. Debswana is always ready to extend its caring arms to deserving communities across the country. It does that through charitable organizations, as well as employment creation. To enhance the efficiency of its CSI program, the company ensures that the program receives consistent funding.
Some of the projects the CSI program has supported include;
- The National Agricultural Fair
- Olorato Children’s Centre located in Lothakane
- The AAP Home-based Care & Family Life Programme
- Botshelo Community Trust in Shakawe and
- The Re Ba Bona Ha Programme by the Botswana National Sports Council
Debswana is among the wealthiest diamond corporations in the world. The company has at least four operational mines to its name.
The government of Botswana, which owns a 50% stake in the company, has been very supportive in terms of creating an enabling environment for mining activities in the country. And the company has reciprocated that huge gesture by investing heavily in Batswana.