Debswana Diamond Company Ltd is a diamond exploration and mining company based in Botswana. Established in 1969, the company, being the world’s leading diamond producer by value, has placed Botswana on the global map as a favorite diamond producing country.
Owned and managed by the Botswana government through a joint venture with De Beers, Debswana also holds the distinction of being the world’s most voluminous diamond producer. Each of the two entities involved 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 the time, geologists from the world’s leading diamond explorer, De Beers, began prospecting for diamonds in Botswana. In 1960, they uncovered a diamond-bearing deposit near Orapa, and on 23rd June 1969, the Debswana Diamond Company was founded, known at the time 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. This, however, could not happen since it enjoyed a paltry 15% share. Therefore, over the next five years, the government embarked on a mission to increase its control in the company, thereby helping increment its share by 35%. As a result, its total share amounted to 50%—a figure that has remained constant to date.
On 25th March 1992, the company changed its name to Debswana Diamond Company (Proprietary) Ltd, and since then has earned its place among the most successful diamond explorers and producers in the world. Presently, the company operates four mines: 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, with diamond mining accounting for nearly all the mining operations being carried out 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.
Debswana is among the largest employers in the private sector, currently employing around 5,200 people in mining activities throughout the country, with many more benefiting indirectly from the trade.
One reason why the company is flourishing is its belief in safe and responsible mining activities. Besides, it also endeavors to positively impact the lives of the local communities.
Debswana’s Mining Operations
As mentioned before, Debswana operates across four mining locations, each explained as follows:
The Orapa mine is the most famous of the four, being predominantly an open-pit mine. It is situated 240 kilometers west of Francistown and was discovered in 1967 by a team of geologists from De Beers, led by Manfred Marx. However, operations did not commence immediately, and 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 is 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.
The mine 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. Moreover, it falls in the list of the diamond mines responsible for the fewest number of fatalities.
The Letlhakane mine is located 50 kilometers from the Orapa mines and has a history as old as that of Orapa. It was discovered by geologists while sampling and evaluating works were going on at Orapa.
The mine officially opened its operations in 1975, by which time 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 which is the processing of the tailings. Experts project that the plant, having an annual capacity of 800,000 carats, will extend the life of this mine to 2043.
The Damtshaa mine is comprised of four small diamond pipes. The vents include B/K1, B/K9, B/K12, and B/K15. The pipes cover an area of 20 kilometers east of Orapa and were discovered over a period of five years between 1967 and 1972. Commissioning of the mine was done near the end of 2002, and on 28th October 2002, the mine produced its first head feed load.
Officially opened on 25th October 2003, the mine’s annual diamond production staggers at 0.16 million carats. It produces varying diamond grades, which fact makes it the most diversified of the four mines.
Like other mining sites in Botswana, Damtshaa is relatively safe, with no fatalities and sick leaves reported within the first two years of its operation. The SABS Surveillance Audit carried out an audit on the mine and confirmed that it is ISO14001-compliant.
The Jwaneng mine, the last on the list, 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 given the high quantity of its precious gems, it is Debswana’s flagship mining site, contributing 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 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 society through the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) Programme. Through the same initiative, Debswana also 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, but Debswana goes a notch higher. The company endeavors to impact the lives of Batswana on a national scale and is always ready to extend its caring arms to deserving communities across the country through charitable organizations and the creation of employment opportunities. To enhance the efficiency of its CSI program, the company ensures that it 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 and, as explained above, 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. In return for this huge gesture, the company has been investing heavily in Botswana.