De Beers first to Operationalize SQUID System

De Beers LogoGaborone: De Beers, owned by Anglo American is first in the world to operationalize airborne magnetic SQUID system-the Super Conducting Quantum Interference Device-for the faster execution of work programmes and significantly reducing the mining exploration costs.

This Full Tensor Airborne Magnetic SQUID system could locate kimberlite deposits through looking at changes to magnetic fields. This hi-tech system has a very sensitive magnetometer, which can measure extremely subtle examples of such fields. The new technology has significant benefits over the existing exploration methods, especially as it is the first device of its kind that can operate on a fixed-wing plane.

With the slowly depleting reserves in existing mines and the search for new diamond deposits moving to more remote locations, De Beers is increasingly relying on technological advancements to help navigate more complex environments.

As per the De Beers estimates in the Diamond Insight Report-2014 released in Hong Kong, overall global rough diamond production increased by three per cent from 2012 to $18 billion in 2013. Measured in carats, the increase was seven per cent, to reach 146 million carats. This is still below the production peak in 2005, when overall production was above 176 million carats.

The largest diamond production country, by volume, is Russia, which in 2013 produced 25 per cent of total carats, and 26 per cent of overall rough diamond by value. Botswana produced 16 per cent of carat, corresponding to 21 per cent of overall value. Another large volume producing country is DRC which has historically produced on average 19 per cent of total volume, but equivalent to only roughly six per cent of value due to low value per carat.

Bruce Cleaver, executive head (strategy and corporate affairs) at De Beers group told TOI, “Technology advancement is critically important to support the whole value chain, including in sustaining the supply to meet growing demand. As supply from existing mines decreases, mining will become increasingly complex and remote, and increasingly costly. Investment in operational innovations will be required to drive productivity”

Cleaver added, “Since 2000, the diamond mining industry has spent almost $7 billion on exploration. To date, these efforts have yielded relatively meagre results; only one diamond deposit of significant size has been discovered at Bunder in India, in addition to other smaller deposits such as Orapa AK6 in Botswana owned by Lucara Diamond Corporation”.