50 Years of Diamonds in Botswana

2017, the year of the 11th International Kimberlite Conference, is the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the first economic kimberlite in Botswana, now the Orapa Mine. To highlight the transformation of Botswana into the largest diamond producer by value worldwide and Gaborone becoming the world’s premier diamond centre, the anniversary will be celebrated at 11 IKC under the banner of “50 Years of Diamonds in Botswana”. Events and some of the relevant history are presented below. 


11 IKC CELEBRATIONS OF “50 YEARS OF DIAMONDS IN BOTSWANA”

Keynote Address 

The 11 IKC Technical Sessions start with a special Opening Keynote which will present some of the history of 50 Years of Diamonds in Botswana:


Prospecting History Leading to the Discovery of Botswana’s Diamond Mines:
From Artifacts to Lesedi La Rona
Dr. Michiel de Wit 
Tsodilo Resources (Pty) Ltd., Maun, Botswana and University of Pretoria, South Africa


Discovery of Orapa Video Presentation 

A documentary video will be shown which chronicles the beginning of 50 Years of Diamonds in Botswana: the discovery and evaluation of the Orapa kimberlite as well as the construction and opening of the Orapa Diamond Mine. This 25 minute documentary is a ~1971 De Beers Botswana Mining Company Production. This presentation is courtesy of Debswana Diamond Company and The De Beers Group of Companies.

From left to right: De Beers prospecting team collecting reconnaissance surface loam samples; De Beers exploration geologists Dr Gavin Lamont, known as “Doc”, and Jim Gibson examining an initial positive sample; field geologist Manfred Marx in 1967 radioing in the very positive results from follow up samples collected in the area of the Orapa cattle post; Doc receiving the good news; drilling to confirm and delineate the 2125 A/K1 kimberlite;  one of the initial evaluation sampling pits being examined by Jim Gibson, Gavin Lamont and Manfred Marx; early evaluation diamonds; mine construction; early production diamonds from Botswana’s first diamond mine.


Talks Celebrating 50 Years of Diamonds in Botswana

Talks celebrating 50 Years of Diamonds in Botswana will be given including:

Journey of Botswana’s Diamonds
Mike Brook
Debswana Diamond Company (Pty) Ltd


(p. 261, Brook 2012)


Field Trips

11 IKC field trips will provide delegates with the opportunity to visit all of Botswana’s operating diamond mines including the first economic kimberlite discovery at Orapa as well as other parts of the diamond pipeline and thus spanning 50 Years of Diamonds in Botswana:

Field Trip 1: Desert Gems - Botswana’s Major Mines (Orapa, Lethalkane, Jwaneng, Damsthaa and Karowe)
Field Trip 9: Day Trips to diamond sorting, cutting and polishing facilities in Gaborone

 

Books on the History of Diamonds in Botswana

Books will be available for sale at the conference that capture the history of 50 years of Diamonds in Botswana from the early prospecting days before the discovery of kimberlites to Botswana being the world’s largest diamond producer by value. Many of the photographs used on this website were provided by Mike Brook of Debswana from Brook (2012).

 

Botswana’s Diamonds – Prospecting to Jewellery
By Michael C. Brook

Published in 2012 (ISBN: 978-99912-941-8-6).




Prospecting in Africa –  Narratives by Early De Beers Explorers in the Search for Diamonds
Editors: MCJ de Wit, EO Kostlin, RS Liddle

Published in 2011 by De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd.
Sold by the Geological Society of South Africa.
Proceeds are donated to a post-graduate student fund at the Geology Department of the University of Pretoria.

 

Botswana Diamond Jewellery
By Michael C. Brook

Published in 2016 


SOME OF THE HISTORY

(after Botswana’s Diamonds – Prospecting to Jewellery, Michael C. Brook 2012, see above)

The first recognised diamond find in Botswana was in 1955 by Consolidated African Selection Trust in alluvial deposits along the banks of the Motloutse River at Foley siding, some 250km east of the now Orapa Town. The first kimberlites were found twelve years later in 1967 by De Beers Consolidated Mines in the Orapa-Lethlakane area. De Beers had been prospecting in Botswana since 1954 under the leadership of Dr Gavin Lamont or “Doc” as he was respectfully known. Doc applied Alex du Toit’s crustal warping theory to suggest that the Foley diamonds came from the Kalahari Desert and, with Jim Gibson in 1966, found abundant ilmenites and garnets (indicator minerals). This led to a period of incredibly successful prospecting (1967-1982) during which numerous kimberlites were discovered including all of today’s major diamond mines in Botswana. The first economic kimberlite Orapa A/K1 was found by Manfred Marx and his team on 25th April 1967. 

 
De Beers geologists (left to right): Jim Gibson, Doc (Dr Gavin Lamont) and
Manfred Marx at Orapa A/K1 kimberlite evaluation pit (1967, De Beers; p. 64, Brook 2012).

De Beers Botswana Mining Company was formed in 1969 and in 1975 became a 50:50 joint venture between De Beers and the Government of Botswana. In 1992 the joint venture was renamed Debswana. The following years, 1971-1982, were a decade of opening mines: Orapa in 1971, Lethlakane in 1977 and Jwaneng in 1982. Exploration also continued. In 1978-1982 Falconbridge found more kimberlites including Tsabong, Kokong and Gope.



The Orapa Mine was officially opened by Sir Seretse Khama, President of Botswana
and Harry Oppenheimer, Chairman of De Beers (1971, De Beers, p. 84, Brook 2012)

Many of these prospects have been revisited and since 2003 there has been a second phase of smaller mines opening: Damtshaa Mine by Debswana (2003; Orapa B/K1, B/K9, B/K12, B/K15, currently on care and maintenance), Lerala by DiamonEx (2008 but currently closed; also known as Martin’s Drift), Orapa B/K11 by Firestone (2011 but currently closed), Karowe Mine by Lucara Diamond Corporation (2012; Orapa A/K6) and the Ghaghoo Mine by Gem Diamonds (2014 Gope 25). Further exploration and evaluation in Botswana is ongoing. 

 
Botswana’s Kimberlite Fields and their geological setting (p. 36, Brook 2012)


The first kimberlites were found almost immediately after the independence of Botswana in 1966 (formerly the Bechuanaland Protectorate under British Rule). Botswana is now the largest diamond producer by value worldwide. Diamond mining has transformed the country. Botswana was once one of the five poorest African countries, but today it is ranked the highest on the African continent in terms of per capita GDP. Successive stable democratic governments since independence have created a safe environment, vibrant and growing economy. 




Gaborone, the capital, is a modern city and is becoming the world’s premier diamond centre. It is now the home of the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB; a 50:50 joint venture of De Beers and the Government of Botswana). The relocation of the De Beers global sightholder sales from London in 2015 to Gaborone and the development of a diamond cutting industry represent the successful downstream beneficiation of diamonds in Botswana.



DTC Botswana Shining Light Awards: 2010-2012:
Highly Commend Piece by Tjipo Keaikitse sponsored by
Dalumi Group, Motiganz Diamond Group and Yerushalmi.
Gold choker set with 3,425 round brilliant cut diamonds
(17.169cts) (p. 246, Brook 2012).