Diamond extraordinaire De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) is moving forward with plans to operate an automated driverless truck-haulage system as part of its $1.8 billion investment at its Venetia underground mine in South Africa.
DBCM CEO Phillip Barton said the company will use similar automation technology it used at the formerly-owned Finsch diamond mine, which is now owned by Petra Diamonds.
"We're certainly taking the learnings that we had out of Finsch mine forward and incorporating them into the design of the Venetia underground mine," Barton said. "The Venetia underground project at the moment provides for a driverless truck loop."
In addition to driverless technology, DBCM will install vertical shafts and decline shaft at the diamond mine, incorporating other mining techniques to hit its expected 5.9 million tons of ore a year.
Many people expect De Beers to implement more than just driverless trucks at the mine site. The company could potentially employ a vast amount of automation, including drills and haulage trains with plant controllers that monitor operations remotely from central control stations.
“Finsch taught us some good lessons and we’ll continue to look at technology as it develops and as we develop the mine. We will only consider proven technology,” Barton said.
The Venetia mine will initially operate as open-pit until 2021, and then the company will transform it into an underground operation until 2046. De Beers expects to produce 96 million carats of diamonds during the lifetime of the mine.
The $1.8 million investment by DBCM is reflective of the group’s confidence in South African as an investment destination, helping a country with the capacity turn the project into a positive account. The mine is expected to contribute $7.9 billion directly and $19.9 billion indirectly towards the South African economy in between 2012 and 2043.
The Venetia mine will support 8,000 jobs directly and a further 5,000 through the supply chain.
Since opening in 1992, the Venetia mine has easily become South Africa’s largest and richest diamond mine.