DebMarine’s Mafuta wheels to economic growth

Namibia has the richest known marine diamond deposits in the world, estimated at more than 80 million carats, which represents approximately 90% of the country’s diamond resources.

Debmarine Namibia, which operates in Namibia’s Atlantic coastal waters, is part of a 50/50 joint venture between Namibia and De Beers and is the world’s leader in diamond mining at sea.

The diamond mining company recovers approximately one million carats every year from the sea floor, accounting for more than half of Namdeb’s total diamond production.

In November 2012, the marine mining giant acquired a new vessel named MV Peace in Africa. The vessel, which was purchased at a cost of over N$640m, is an important asset within the mine’s production fleet of vessels. It has since been christened MV Mafuta, which is Oshiwambo for ‘seas’ or ‘oceans’.

Debmarine’s acquisition of the MV Mafuta, which mines with a unique 280-ton crawler- mounted dredge technology is what has seen the diamond sea mining company grossing in a fortune and positively contributing to the Namibian economy.

According to the chief executive officer (CEO), Otto Shikongo, the addition of the MV Mafuta will witness a significant growth in the Namibian economy.

“For many decades, people gazed at the blue ocean wondering if diamonds were in the ocean. Scientists eventually came to show us how to extract the diamonds through marine mining and we invited President Hifikepunye Pohamba to see the 280-ton sub-sea crawler. She will produce in the region of 350 000 carats per annum or 30% of an annual production, which will make her the biggest carat contributor and revenue generator,” explains Shikongo.

Debmarine mines in the offshore mining licence area off the southern coast of Namibia at water depths of between 70 and 140 metres.

Debmarine Namibia operates five production vessels; the MV Debmar Atlantic, MV Debmar Pacific, MV !Gariep, MV Grand Banks and the recently acquired MV Mafuta.

Two mining technologies are used at the mine and these are namely the airlift drill technology and crawler-mounted technology that is highly advanced and supported with sophisticated tracking, positioning and surveying equipment.

The diamond gravel is then treated in the plant on-board before being transported to Windhoek for further sorting at the Namibia Diamond Trading Company.

“We believe we are unrivaled to the contribution of the Namibian treasury. The most important asset of Debmarine Namibia is its people. ‘Namibialisation’ is a key initiative that has been driven at the highest level to ensure that our commitment to investing in the development of local talent empowers our employees, our communities and delivers tangible economic value for Namibia,” states Shikongo.

The mine employs a total number of 780 people with 75% of that number being Namibians.

Diamond mining in Namibia dates back to 1908 when a rail worker accidentally discovered a diamond in an ancient beach terrace at Kolmanskop station near Lüderitz. This discovery sparked a diamond rush and by 1913 the onshore Namibian diamond fields accounted for 20% of world diamond production. By 1920, many of the companies mining in the area were amalgamated by DeBeers into a corporation called Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM). This company performed most of the alluvial diamond mining in Namibia over the past century.

The deposits onshore near Lüderitz were soon depleted but ancient beach terraces existed north of the Orange Rive an in 1928, diamonds were discovered and mining resumed in that area and exists to this day.

It is estimated that a total 100 million carats of 90% gem quality diamonds have been produced from the onshore deposits to date. Mining still occuring and new deposits are being discovered and put into production in South Africa and Namibia.

“We are proud that the MV Mafuta is registered at the Port of Lüderitz and sails under the Namibian flag. The mining sector, particularly the diamond mining sub-sector, continues to be an important pillar of our economy. As such, it is pleasing and encouraging to observe positive growth and developments in this sector. This investment and the fact that the vessel is registered in Namibia will have positive spin offs for our economy. It is my hope that local companies will be engaged to provide services to the MV Mafuta when it calls at the port of Lüderitz to replenish its supplies,” says Pohamba.

Debmarine is a recognised world leader in marine diamond exploration and mining technology. Resource development is carried out by scanning the seafloor using geophysical mapping and this is followed by sampling to determine the reserve inventory.

The inventory, together with other parameters, are then processed into a mine plan, which is aimed at ensuring the sustainable use of the resource for the longterm benefit of Namibia.

According to the Minister of Mines, Isak Kamati, Debmarine Namibia is taking global marine diamond mining into the future.

Marine mining is now being carried out in many places around the world. Extensive tin workings have been in place in Southeast Asia for over 30 years while 90% of the world’s diamond gemstones are currently mined from the sea off Namibia and South Africa, not far off the south of our marine concession.

“We are celebrating the achievement of this fine Namibian company that specialises in marine mining. I was impressed with the safety standards and procedures at the mine. I was moved by the professionalism that young Namibians have in the stimulation of economic growth. With the addition of the Mafuta vessel, more revenue will be generated, more jobs created and increased training opportunities,” Kamati says.

According to an online marine mining journal, marine diamond mining is a big challenge, which requires heavy capital investment and skills for positive results to be gained.

With the promising vast and untapped resource potential of this quality gem, Debmarine Namibia is surely shining its way towards being the biggest diamond mining company in the world. PF