Discovery Metals Limited is a copper and silver concentrate producer from its 100 percent owned major asset, the Boseto Copper Project in northwest Botswana. The company was founded in 2003, and work at Boseto began in 2005.
The past five years have seen Discovery Metals evolve from an explorer to a copper-silver producer. Its last financial year was very successful—the company produced 18,000 tonnes of copper, and are looking to produce between 24 and 25 thousand in the next few years.
Although Discovery Metals hasn’t always been as stable as it has been for the past year or so, moving forward the increased production in Boseto, exploration and production in underground mines and the company’s continuing expectation for a safe and effective company culture will guide Discovery Metals into a new era of mining in Africa.
Boseto is a long-life mine with an initial evaluated mine life of 15 years. Because the mine has been so lucrative, Discovery Metals is currently developing a plan to increase the life of the mine to 25 years. Boseto is part of the Kalahari Copperbelt Prospecting Licence, which covers over 10,500 square kilometres from Zambia in the northeast of Botswana down to the southwest of the country. The Kalahari Copperbelt is underdeveloped and has a lot of potential, so the company will be investing more time and effort into exploration and eventual production.
“The backbone and the positive thing for us is that we have inherently concentrated or we're the only operation within the Kalahari Copper Built,” said Bob Fulker, chief executive and operating officer. “We’re the first company to develop an operating mine. There are a lot of others out there that are trying to do what we've done. They are still exploring, still trying to get their projects approved or funded.”
The main ore bodies on Boseto are Zeta, Plutus and Northeast Mango Two. There are also Zeta Northeast, Mango, and Northeast Mango One. Within the Kalahari Copperbelt, the company also has 10,000 square kilometres of exploration leases.
Currently, Discovery Metals is out in the market with the goal to raise equity from current shareholders and a few potential new shareholders to proceed into underground development operations. The company wants to start exploration in the beginning of the calendar year 2015.
“The money raised will fund the first of those underground developments,” said Fulker. “The cash flow to be generated for that underground development will then be put back into subsequent underground development.”
The planned underground development is expected to wield enough to get Discovery Metals’ copper output above 36,000 tonnes per year. This is a long term goal, with multiple underground operations eventually feeding the mill. Once the underground mines are established, mill expansion will follow.
The site at Mango 2 is the highest prospective for another underground site, but the company still has drilling and some in-hill resource analysis planned.
With the leap into underground mining, Discovery Metals is also considering an upgrade in technology. The aim of this upgrade is faster development cycle that will give the company the ability to access the ore quicker. The new technology is planned to keep track of employees while on the job and provide better communication and data transfer.
“It’s not new technology,” admitted Fulker, “but it’s not a widely used set of tech that underground fraternity uses. There’s a need to be able to track your people from a safety perspective and from a blast clearance perspective. Anything that can help in those areas will improve our safety culture, which is something that we've been working hard on in the last 12 and 18 months.”
Discovery Metals employs predominantly local employees. Much of the workforce lives directly around the mines, with the rest coming from other parts of Botswana and a core of ex-patriots from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Australia. All of the company’s front-line operators are local and well as several of the superintendents and six site managers.
To support their employees, Discovery Metals provides workers with two camps and two mess halls. The entire workforce eats together—three meals a day are provided for all employees, and the rest of the accommodations are relatively generic for a mining work site.
The company also employs a dedicated community relations officer, who is intimately involved in the community in the region and in a broader scope in Botswana. The community relations officer and the HR manager have created community programs for each of the mine’s surrounding villages that the chief in each village runs. This connection the community allows the company to continue to attract their workforce, all while providing services to the region.
Stabilisation Leading To A New Era
As Discovery Metals moves forward with their plans to venture into underground mining, the stabilisation of the company on multiple levels is what is that got them this far.
“In the last 6 to 12 months, we've stabilized operations and we've stabilised the company,” commented Fulker. “We've taken time to consider how to do that. Eventually we’ll position the company to start operations in a new era for us in discovery. We'll always have open pits in the area as long as there is pittable material. But I think underground is the future.”