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Exploration Technology by De Beers

De Beers has built a prestigious reputation over the years, derived primarily from one attribute: quality diamonds. The company, which has been the lead...

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|Nov 6|magazine15 min read

De Beers has built a prestigious reputation over the years, derived primarily from one attribute: quality diamonds. The company, which has been the leader in diamonds for more than 100 years, has notoriously remained silent about its exploration tactics…until now.

De Beers recently opened up about its exploration strategies and how the company’s technology division ‘DebTech’ is giving it a competitive advantage for diamond exploration, mining and ore treatment.

Added value

The role of DebTech is to provide cost effective and value adding technology that will ensure a sustainable competitive advantage to the value of De Beers.

The company’s innovative products are developed by marrying De Beers’ diamond industry knowledge along with its technical expertise to provide world-class services. De Beers’ R&D function helps manage the entire DebTech innovation process and aims to identify, create and demonstrate the feasibility of new technologies in order to further the company’s Exploration and Ore Processing divisions.

According to the DebTech website, the R&D function is to make use of key technologies suppliers in the relevant fields of interest, while implementation is completed as a collaborative process between DebTech and relevant De Beers’ business partners.

“The Product R&D function manages the entire product acquisition process from requirement analysis, concept generation to final design and operates alongside the Product Supply and Support function. Together, these two functions collaborate with internationally recognised technology component suppliers and combine their unique understanding of operational requirements, within the diamond industry, to deliver the products appropriate to meet those unique needs.”

To ensure quality and innovation is maintained among all of its products, the division employs a large number of specialized technicians. Core functions are performed by this team throughout the product lifecycle, including the provisions of specialized skills during the manufacturing, assembling and testing of products.

Scheduled inspections are performed to ensure a high standard of efficiency as well as serving as a standardize plant audit. This provides management with an unbiased view of the performance of the diamond technology.

Products and services

Until 2008, the division’s products and services were only made available to the De Beers’ family of companies around the world. According to DebTech marketing manager Nico van Zyl, the availability of its products on the open market coincided with the fall in world financial markets, with many operations significantly reducing output during 2009.

"Even though this has been the case, DebTech has managed to achieve all its financial targets for the past two years and was able to sell the first sorting units to outside companies. Electronic sorting remains our main focus and is supplemented by magnetic separation and security technologies."

The main focus of DebTech has always been related to the diamond industry. Key product areas are X-ray sorters and laser Raman diamond sorters. The division can also supply equipment that can analyze and define diamond production.

“We can provide sorting solutions that can deliver a 99% concentrate by weight in an automated mode, and this can be done for the entire size range,” said Van Zyl.

“From a large range of products, only a number have been selected for display. These will include diamond X-ray sorting technology, the Scannex low dose X-ray body scanner, the magnetic roll separator, dense-medium controllers and the metallurgical service.”

The company’s portfolio of products includes:

CDX113C and CDX116C Single or Dual Wavelength X-ray Sorters

CDX118CD and CWX118CD Dual Wavelength X-ray Sorters

Dense Medium Controller (DMC)

MagRoll-Single Stage

Osprey Ultra Violet Diamond Scavenging Sorter

BWX 1112 High Throughput Large Diamond X-ray Sorter

Tracers & Simulants

Metallurgical Services

The future of diamond exploration

According to Bruce Cleaver, executive head at De Beers group, new technological advances is vital for the future of diamond exploration to be successful.

"Technology advancement is critically important to support the whole value chain, including in sustaining the supply to meet growing demand. As supply from existing mines decreases, mining will become increasingly complex and remote, and increasingly costly. Investment in operational innovations will be required to drive productivity"

The DebTech division is continuously working to develop the latest technological advances for diamond exploration. During the last two years, the division has placed emphasis on filling a gap in the suite of diamond sorters, launching an array of new products to fulfill this need including the Rhovol Densimetric Profiler, the BWX1112 and BWX118 large diamond sorters, and a new diamond sorter utilizing XRT technology.

Last month the company launched its airborne magnetic SQUID system (Super Conducting Quantum Interference Device) for faster execution of work programs and reducing mining exploration costs. The new technology has significant benefits over existing exploration methods, especially as it is the first device of its kind that can operate on a fixed-wing plane.

With diamond reserves slowly being depleted from existing mines, the industry is in good hands with DebTech as the De Beers’ division is continuing to search for new technological advancements to assist in diamond exploration.