De Beers Bets on Marine Gem-Mining Plan to Extend Namdeb’s Life

De Beers is closer to coming up with new technology that will enable the Anglo American Plc diamond unit to mine marine deposits in mid-water depths, Namibia Country Manager Daniel Kali said.

The Namibian government and London-based Anglo American are equal shareholders in Namdeb Diamond Corp., whose Debmarine unit mines off the southwest African nation’s coast at depths of 90 meters (295 feet) to 140 meters. The new technology would enable the company to exploit marine gems deposited in gulleys and rocky areas underwater at 30 meters to 50 meters and extend operations to beyond 2050, Kali said.

“Mining in the mid-waters is premised on making a breakthrough in technology to exploit those deposits,” Kali said by phone on April 24. “Some interesting work has been done but we haven’t reached a level where the researchers can say they are satisfied.”

Namibia’s Atlantic coast area holds an estimated 80 million carats of gems, the world’s richest marine-diamond deposits, which were carried to the sea by the Orange River, according to De Beers’ website. Debmarine contributed 1.16 million carats to Namdeb’s 1.76 million carats produced in 2013. Total output was 6 percent more than in 2012.

“There is still tremendous work required to define the scope and appropriate technology for the mid-water deposits,” Pauline Thomas, a spokeswoman for Namdeb, said in an e-mail yesterday. “The process of developing technology is ongoing, and various models and options are being considered.”

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