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De Beers' new S.Africa mine delivers first diamonds

By Agence France-Presse Published Jul 27, 2023 2:27 pm

A $2.3-billion mining tunnel in South Africa has started to produce its first diamonds, mining giant De Beers said on Tuesday, July 25.

In 2012, the global firm started digging beneath the country's largest diamond mine, Venetia, seeking to reach gems at a depth of more than 1,000 metres (3,250 feet). 

Venetia is an open mine in northeastern South Africa, close to the border with Zimbabwe and Botswana, that closed in December 2022 after 30 years of production. 

The firm described the first diamonds as "a key milestone" but did not give further details. 

The underground operation, employing about 4,300 people, is now 70 percent complete, it said.

The facility is expected to produce about 4 million carats of diamonds annually, De Beers said after rectifying earlier, higher estimates. 

Correcting a previous statement, the firm also revised its investment in the underground project from $2.2 to $2.3 billion.  

South Africa is one of the world's largest diamond producers as well as a leading miner of other precious metals including gold, chromium and platinum.

Diamond mining in the country began in the second half of the 19th century but miners have often had to dig deeper, shouldering higher costs, in recent years as gems closer to the surface deplete.

De Beers managed operations' director Moses Madondo said the investment enhanced the group's "production for the long term" and was an indication of its commitment to South Africa.

"We look forward to seeing this high-performing team continue the good work as we ramp up production over the next few years," he said.