Petra Diamonds’ R3.8 billion C-Cut Phase 1 Expansion project is breathing new life into Cullinan, one of South Africa’s oldest diamond operations, and proving that age is just a number.
Despite its +100 years of production, the expansion has secured Cullinan’s lifespan well beyond its former 2016 closure date at double its production capacity, writes Laura Cornish.
Petra Diamonds mining projects manager Andre Cloete says the expansion project is transformational – for Cullinan and Petra Diamonds. “It represents the start of a brand new mine which gives us access to greater volumes of fresh, high grade undiluted ore for at least another 16 years. It is also expected to increase the frequency of recovering ‘big blue diamonds’ while ensuring the mine retains its status as one of Petra Diamonds’ flagship diamond mines well beyond 2016.”
Impressively, Petra Diamonds was able to move the project forward for less than half the original cost forecast by its original owners. This is due to a phased growth approach, an evaluation of how best to utilise existing equipment and infrastructure while finding innovative solutions to reduce general capital expenditure.
A major new mine is born
The 5.7 hectare, C-Cut Phase 1 Expansion project specifically entails the development and construction of a new block cave on the western side of the Cullinan ore body, 200 m below the current operational B block mining horizons, situated between 645 m (645 Level) and 885 m (885 Level) below surface.
Once in full production in 2019, the new C-Cut block will increase Cullinan’s ROM production from 2.5 Mtpa to 4 Mtpa, incorporating 2 million carats from underground production and 0.4 million carats from a major..