De Beers new ‘Diamond Gentle’ recovery plant unveiled at Finsch mine

De Beers recently commissioned its new Finsch Mine Treatment Plant Upgrade (FMTPU), built at a cost of R630 million at the world’s most technologically advanced underground diamond mining operation (IM, January 2008) near Lime Acres in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The objective of the upgrade was to improve overall diamond recovery efficiency levels, and importantly, to improve the value of diamonds recovered by liberating diamonds from kimberlite in carefully designed “diamond friendly” processes developed and implemented by the company’s technical project team. The new plant includes the installation of high-pressure roll crushers to replace the relatively dated rod milling process used before, and two new secondary crushers, replacing the older technology cone crushers. The capacity of the plant will rise from 5.8 Mt of kimberlite treated a year to 7.2 Mt/y. The efficiency improvements have been achieved with the addition of a coarse Dense Medium Separation (DMS) plant and by converting the existing DMS plant to a fines DMS plant, thus allowing for a more efficient DMS process. This will feed correctly prepared diamond bearing kimberlite to a new final recovery plant that includes the latest X-Ray diamond recovery technology. Much of the technology installed at Finsch was developed by DebTech, the De Beers Group’s technology research and manufacturing division based in the south of Johannesburg.

The newly constructed diamond recovery plant was officially opened on July 8 by Ms Dipuo Peters, Premier of the Northern Cape, and Nicky Oppenheimer, the De Beers Chairman. Deputy Chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) Manne Dipico and David Noko, the DBCM Managing Director, joined Maxwell Morapeli, Finsch Mine Operations Manager, and local government officials and union representatives and employees at the event.

David Noko congratulated all in the project team on mine, and in the support services, commenting that; “while the recovery of revenue generating diamonds is important for all who benefit from this activity there are a few other natural elements very precious to this company and to our country. Water is a scarce resource in South Africa and therefore the usage of water is an important environmental and efficiency measure for De Beers and for Finsch mine. A new thickener and associated infrastructure was added to the plant to improve the internal water recoveries at Finsch. This will lead to a lower volume of water used per tonne of kimberlite processed. As an example of the new De Beers way of continuous business improvement, the management at Kimberley Mines Combined Treatment Plant, which boasts some of the best diamond recovery technology around, has succeeded in further reducing water consumption by over 30% in the last year – from 0.6 to 0.4 m3/t treated. At Finsch we will seek to challenge those successes. I am confident that the investment made here will increase the value, and also the quantity of diamonds produced by Finsch mine, whilst utilising natural resources, like water, more efficiently. This is a new era in De Beers, one of ‘win, win, win’, for employees and the community, the environment and for shareholders and stakeholders in our company in all the projects we do throughout the world.”

The project history began with a comprehensive review of the mine followed by the feasibility study which was conducted during 2004. The implementation of the project was approved in January 2005. Following commissioning in the last year the new plant reached full design capacity in June 2008. The construction and commissioning, took two and a half years. During construction 480 jobs were created in the local economy and 16 permanent jobs in the plant will be necessary to run it efficiently. Finch mine employs 2 226 people in the Northern Cape.

De Beers is engaged in bringing into operation another new mine, Voorspoed, following the successful launch last year of the first deep sea mining operation off the South African west coast. The company is improving the efficiency of all its operations with investments in all mines operated. It has also, as an empowered company itself, promoted the transformation of mining by selling some operations to new operators better suited to those deposits. Finsch forms an important part of De Beers strategy in South Africa to grow its business into the future.