Diamond producer, Namdeb says it has so far missed production targets because of problems associated with the slow commissioning of the rehabilitated Elizabeth Bay Mine.
Briefing journalists during a media visit to the mine on Tuesday, general manager, Riaan Burger said Namdeb has produced 198,000 carats, year to date, 30% less than the budgeted 283,000 carats.
But despite the slow start to the year, Burger is optimistic that they are still on track to meet year-end profitability as the mine (Elizabeth Bay) was now producing well. In addition, revenue per carat has jumped 34% to US$611 from the budgeted U$456.
Namdeb injected around N$70 million for the rehabilitation of the mine located south of LÃ¼deritz after shutting it down in 2009 due to profitability problems. With the recommissioned mine, Namdeb expects to produce around 300,000 carats there alone out of just under 600,000 carats expected from all land-based operations.
Namdeb is also battling to contain high operating costs which Burger said remains a challenge to profitability and meeting long term objectives. So far, costs have averaged N$126 per tonne against a budgeted N$107.
Meanwhile, Namdeb says it is looking at innovative ways to continue mining its low grade resource at Daberas to extend the life of mine beyond 2014.
Sendelingsdrift project manager, Jack Wasserfal said the diamond producer is looking at technology that will allow mining operations to continue at Daberas probably extending the life of mine until 2020 when the current mining licence expires. He said: "Daberas has been operating since 2001 but we are trying to extend the life of mine after 2014. There are still diamonds left but we are looking at whether we can do that economically. If we are to develop the low grade ore, then we have to change the way we mine in order to reduce costs."
Lionel Coetzee, process manager at the Orange River Mines said the new technology being developed will entail lower costs, innovative techniques and higher throughput rates.
He added: "On the Kimberley mines they use pans to extract diamonds and that's one of the options we are looking at. We are also looking at high throughput X-ray technology and matching the mining equipment to the process."
Namdeb treats 2.8 million tonnes of ore per year at Daberas mine, recovering between 35000 and 50000 carats. For every 100 tonnes treated, anything between 0.5 and 1 carat is recovered. And although the resource is considered low grade, diamonds produced at the mine located near the Orange River mouth, are of high value.
If new technologies are developed, mining operations are expected to continue at the mine with the main treatment plant staying in place while the Dense Mobile Separation will move to the new mine at Sendelingsdrift.
At Sendelingdrift, being built at a cost of N$280 million, Wasserfal says they will try and do dry screening to save on energy costs. This deposit is thought to contain the largest and highest revenue diamonds of the entire Namdeb resource portfolio.