Angola’s Camutue Diamond Mine Drills to Expand Kimberlite Pit

Tecmad Mining Services SARL is drilling at its Camutue diamond mine in the northeast of Angola, the world’s fourth-largest diamond producer, to test the feasibility of expansion, Site Director Colyn Purdon said.

The kimberlite mine at Lucapa in Lunda Norte province, 825 kilometers (513 miles) east of Luanda, the capital, produces about 12,000 carats a month from more than 50,000 cubic meters of ore, Purdon said in an interview at the mine Oct. 13. The 13-hectare (32-acre) open pit is 45 meters (148 feet) deep with initial plans to extend to 115 meters while core samples are being taken to a depth of 150 meters to determine future viability, Purdon said.

“We’re drilling down to plan where to go,” Purdon said.

Angola’s production of diamonds, its biggest mineral export, may rise to about 9 million carats this year and 12.8 million carats in 2014 from 8.3 million carats valued at $1.16 billion in 2012 as the southwest African country starts four new mines and resumes work at three others, Geology and Mines Minister Francisco Queiroz said in August. The global market in polished diamonds may reach $31 billion by 2016, De Beers, the gem-producing arm of Anglo American Plc (AAL), forecast last year.

Camutue began in 2007 on a 28-hectare site near the Luachimo River that’s had diamond prospecting and mining for the past several decades, Purdon said. Efficiencies implemented over the past two years have more than doubled output, he said.

Endiama Stake

State-run exploration and production company Endiama EP owns 25 percent of the mine, while Sociedade Mineira do Lucapa Lda has 10 percent, company spokesman Antonio Freitas said in an e-mailed response to questions. CAD owns 60 percent while Consorcio Camutue has 5 percent, he said.

Namakwa Diamonds Ltd. sold its interest in the mine a year ago, Lynette van der Merwe, a spokeswoman at the company, said by phone from Johannesburg, declining to give more information.

Lunda Norte province, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, has 16 of the 108 concessions across the country seeking investors, according to Endiama’s website. The province has more alluvial or river-based diamond mining than kimberlites, a relatively rare geological feature, that is essentially an ancient eroded volcano, Purdon said. There are four alluvial projects around Lucapa including Calonda and the Luo kimberlite pipe further south, provincial information shows.

Alluvial Mining

Alluvial mining attracts illegal miners from Congo and can be hazardous to the environment because it requires diverting rivers and digging up the beds. In recent years Angola has deported thousands of miners, known in Portuguese as garimpeiros. Men crowded the streets of Lucapa in front of diamond-buying stores and mining company offices. A government-run press tour didn’t allow reporters to speak to them.

The province is modernizing roads to the mines with contracts awarded to Brazil’s Odebrecht SA and Portugal’s Mota-Engil SGPS SA as the country rebuilds after a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. A new 1,150-kilometer road linking Dundo, the provincial capital, and Luanda shaves 200 kilometers off an existing, mostly dirt, route and cuts travel time to nine hours from 20, according to Antonio Mussumari, director of the provincial Department of Communication.

The region’s diamond wealth is reflected in a $4.7 billion project to construct 20,000 apartments on the outskirts of Dundo. It will begin filling the first 5,000 flats with occupants in the next few months, Antonio Martins, project director of Tpf Planege-Consultores de Engenharia e Gestao SA, a Lisbon-based company, said in an interview at the site.

The housing built by PanChina Construction Group Co. resembles similar multicolored apartment block projects erected in six areas around Luanda, including Kilamba Kiaxi, and in the northern province of Cabinda, Martins said. The government has increased construction after falling short of a goal set in 2008 to build 1 million homes by 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Colin McClelland in Luanda at cmcclelland1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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