Diamond mining company De Beers has awarded a ZAR2.6bn ($245m) contract to Murray & Roberts Cementation (M&R) for the transformation of its Venetia open pit mine into an underground operation.
Converting the site, which is located in the Limpopo province of South Africa, will extend its life to 2042, claims the company.
The contract includes the construction of an entire underground mine, including the sinking, equipping and commissioning of a decline shaft and two vertical shafts.
The development also includes building a horizontal tunnel, loading levels, associated ventilation and ground and water handling infrastructure.
M&R group CEO Henry Laas said: "This is a flagship project for Murray & Roberts and our local project team has been complimented with project management and operational capacity from our cementation mining companies in Australia and Canada, demonstrating the breadth of capability and experience available in our group.
"The more advanced Canadian shaft sinking methodology will be utilised for sinking the vertical shafts and Cementation Canada, who is recognised as leaders in applying this methodology, will be providing specialist training of the shaft sinking crews.
"The Canadian shaft-sinking model is designed for all activities in the shaft-sinking production cycle to be undertaken in-line. Although good sinking rates are possible with this methodology, the primary drive in the transition to this methodology is improved safety, as no concurrent shaft sinking activities are required."
Venetia open pit mine currently accounts for 40% of the country's annual diamond production. Conversion to an underground operation will make Venetia the largest diamond mine producer in South Africa.
Production from the underground operations is expected to begin in 2021 with a capacity of 96 million carats during the mine life.
Image: De Beers will expand the Venetia mine with new underground operations. Photo: De Beers UK Limited.