De Beers JV Debmarine Namibia Announces Purpose-Built Diamond Ship

Mining and Exploration
16/05/2019 12:36

Debmarine Namibia, a 50/50 joint venture between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers Group, have approved the construction of the world’s first ever custom-built diamond recovery vessel. The new vessel is expected to cost US$468 million (N$7 billion) and represents the largest ever single investment in the marine diamond industry. The ship will become the seventh vessel in the Debmarine Namibia fleet and is scheduled to commence operations in 2022. The vessel is expected to add 500,000 carats annually to Debmarine Namibia’s production, an increase of approximately 35% on current production.

The ship will be built by Netherlands-based Damen Shipyards and will incorporate the latest marine technologies that will drive improved safety performance while optimising efficiency and utilisation rates. Tom Alweendo, Minister of Mines and Energy, the Government of the Republic of Namibia, said: “We note and appreciate the investment announced today by Debmarine Namibia. It is through investments like this we can continue to develop Namibia’s economy. As the Government we will continue to do what we can to promote and encourage investment in the mining sector.”

Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, said: “Some of the highest quality diamonds in the world are found at sea off the Namibian coast. With this investment we will be able to optimise new technology to find and recover diamonds more efficiently and meet growing consumer demand across the globe.” The new vessel is expected to create more than 160 new jobs alongside Debmarine Namibia’s current workforce of 975 employees. De Beers launched in June 2017 what it called "world’s largest and most advanced diamond exploration and sampling vessel, the mv SS Nujoma," which cost US$157 million (N$2.3 billion) to construct. The Nujoma does not mine diamonds, but sails ahead of the mining ship - currently the Mafuta - and indicates the best areas for mining. Mining of Namibia’s diamonds takes place at around 120 to 140 metres below sea level.

Debmarine Namibia's annual production capacity is 1.4 million carats. Namibia produces 95% gem-quality diamonds, consistently ranking among the world's highest average value per carat, but the extraction costs for Namibian diamonds are also very high - in 2017, the average mining cost per carat of US$237 (N$3,080) was a full 276% higher than De Beers' average production cost in the first half of 2017 (US$63).