De Beers Group recently celebrated a key milestone with the delivery of first production from underground operations at its Venetia mine in Limpopo, South Africa. The overall construction of the underground mine is now 70% complete, with construction and production ramp-up continuing over the next few years.
The Venetia mine, South Africa’s leading diamond mine, ceased open pit mining operations in December 2022 after 30 years of production. De Beers embarked on the $2.3 billion underground expansion in 2012, in what represents the biggest single investment in the country’s diamond mining industry in decades. The highly mechanized underground operation will deliver up to 7 million metric tons per year (mt/y) of kimberlite ore to produce roughly 4 million carats of diamonds annually.
“The investment in taking the world-class Venetia mine underground enhances De Beers Group’s global production for the long term and is an indication of our commitment to South Africa,” Moses Madondo, managing director of De Beers Group Managed Operations, said. “Our incredible team of employees and contracting partners have pulled together fantastically to achieve this major milestone of first production from the underground operation. We look forward to seeing this high-performing team continue the good work as we ramp up production over the next few years, bringing profound benefits to our workforce, our host communities, commercial partners and South Africa as a whole.”
The underground project currently employs 4,300 people, mostly from the host communities of Musina and Blouberg Municipalities. De Beers commissioned a $10.5 million training center in June 2021 as part of its operational readiness framework to enhance the transformation of people, processes and systems for the successful transition from open pit to underground mining. To date, a total of 180 employees have successfully transitioned to underground operations without any job losses for Venetia mine’s permanent employees.