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VIT­TO­RIA JOOSTE – Man­ager: New Busi­ness De Beers Con­sol­i­dated Mines (DCBM) – has a quote by T S El­liot hang­ing on her of­fice wall. It’s par­tic­u­larly apt for the per­son in charge of ex­plo­ration in South Africa. “We shall not cease from ex­plo­ration and the end of all our ex­plor­ing will be to ar­rive where we started... and know the place for the first time.” – T S El­liot.

In­ter­pret­ing the quote with di­a­mond min­ing in SA in mind it gives a nod to it as the home of the first sig­nif­i­cant di­a­mond mines. And con­tin­u­ing the in­ter­pre­ta­tion in that vein per­haps re­flects De Beers and Jooste’s de­sire to con­tinue to ex­plore and find di­a­mond de­posits just as had been done in the past and in a sense of re­new­ing SA’s di­a­mond in­dus­try.

One of the largest his­tor­i­cal di­a­mond pro­duc­ers, SA may be seen by some as less prospec­tive when it comes to find­ing large di­a­mond de­posits than other coun­tries be­cause so many of its di­a­monds have al­ready been mined. But Jooste doesn’t agree and says given there have been ma­jor di­a­mond finds in SA, per­haps it’s more likely that there are still some big finds out there, but they will be harder to dis­cover. She says there’s much more to in­ves­ti­gate, given how ex­plo­ration as a dis­ci­pline has de­vel­oped. If there were large de­posits to be found us­ing rel­a­tively less ad­vanced ex­plo­ration tech­niques a few decades ago, per­haps us­ing more so­phis­ti­cated tech­niques you could “as­sume other sig­nif­i­cant dis­cov­er­ies could be made”.

“We still be­lieve there’s value to be found. We have a num­ber of ex­plo­ration tar­gets, with ex­plo­ration driven by what we know with the re­view­ing of ex­ist­ing ge­o­log­i­cal data us­ing new tech­niques and new un­der­stand­ing,” says Jooste.

Much work is car­ried out from air­craft com­plet­ing sur­veys, and data can be bought and as­sessed to­gether with other new and ex­ist­ing data that, an­a­lysed to­gether, may re­sult in the high­light­ing of pre­vi­ously hid­den ge­o­log­i­cal anom­alies. “We want to do as much work as pos­si­ble be­fore we get on the ground. We want to make sure our se­lec­tion of an area is quite ac­cu­rate,” she says.

DBCM has prospect­ing rights in the Free State, Mpumalanga, Lim­popo and North West prov­inces. In some ar­eas peo­ple are al­ready work­ing on the ground and in oth­ers air­borne sur­veys are still be­ing car­ried out. Jooste says the team has been find­ing anom­alies and some kim­ber­lites but points out that glob­ally there are more than 5 000 known kim­ber­lites but less than 1% of them would make an eco­nom­i­cally vi­able mine.

“The odds are very low, but given SA’s min­ing his­tory the odds of a dis­cov­ery may be a bit higher say 3% – but it’s still like looking for a nee­dle in a haystack,” she says.

DBCM has a bud­get of around R20m for green­fields ex­plo­ration in SA for 2008, though none of the projects are yet in fea­si­bil­ity study stage. But while Jooste is op­ti­mistic she doesn’t want to raise ex­pec­ta­tions as di­a­mond peo­ple know just how elu­sive an eco­nom­i­cally vi­able mine is. DBCM is work­ing over the ground hold­ings it has in SA and off the coun­try’s At­lantic coast.

“We’re ex­plor­ing to see if there are new nodes of min­er­al­i­sa­tion that should be in­cluded in fu­ture mine plans for Peace in Africa (De Beers’ marine di­a­mond min­ing ves­sel)”, says Jooste. The prob­a­bil­ity of a di­a­mond mine dis­cov­ery from an out­fit with 120 years of ex­pe­ri­ence just has to be bet­ter than by any other ge­ol­o­gists.

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