KOLO Mine in the Mafeteng district is set to move into commercial production after two years of trial mining which started in 2016.
The announcement was made recently by Reskol Diamonds who won 90 percent of the mine while the rest is owned by the government.
Reskol Diamonds is a subsidiary of a South African company Batla Minerals and the company obtained a 10-year mining lease to operate Kolo mine in 2011.
Although no specific time lines have been set, the announcement has restored hope for the Kolo community which has have over many years witnessed seemingly endless diamond exploration activities at the site by different companies without any real progress.
Reskol Diamonds recently told a public gathering that was organised by the Ministry of Mining that trial mining, which is the first phase of their two- phased development plan of the mine, has been successfully completed.
At the time when the trial mining commenced, the Ministry of Mining had anticipated that it would take no more than six months at the most to process the ore stockpile that was already on site plus more digging for further sampling.
However, the company has previously explained that there has been delays due to a number of factors such as unexpected discovery of human remains popping up during digging on the site, which were followed by protracted reburial processes as the remains were discovered at different times. When such discoveries were made the community wanted the company to suspend operations until the remains had been re-buried. There have been two re-burials in 2017 and 2018.
The projectr also experienced technical challenges when its crusher plant broke down after the operation encountered an unforeseen hard kimberlite in the area. The operation lost four months due to the breakdown before successful repair.
Expansion of the mine’s fence to part of its leased area caused another delay as the community opposed it.
According to the chairperson of a community committee liaising with the miners, ‘Mamahlape Hlapane, they are looking forward to the employment of their people at the mine when it goes commercial.
“There is nothing we would like to see more than the mine operating fully so that many of our people can be employed,” Ms Hlapane said.
She said they expect 15 households to be relocated before the mine commences full scale mining.
“We are entering the infrastructure development stage where we are expecting the mine operator to bring electricity installation into the area, just as the Minister (of Mining) once promised.
“This is the time we are also expecting water supply in the area and good access roads,” she added.
For his part, Kolo constituency legislator, Putsoane Leeto, said he expects the community to get jobs during the re-location process, road rehabilitation and electricity and water supply installation in the area.
“There are works that do not need special skills during infrastructure development projects, and this is where we expect people from the area will get employed,” Mr Leeto said.
The Minister of Mining, Keketso Sello, congratulated Reskol Diamond and the community for their progress despite the conflicts that nearly hampered the work.
“I congratulate you now that you have passed the trial mining stage and are now going into full scale mining.
“I also want to appeal to you, as we have a general perception that you miners come to our country to make profits without any care about the host communities. Please don’t be like other miners and I am confident that you will understand exactly what I mean and you won’t disappoint me,” Mr Sello said.
On behalf of Reskol Diamonds, Lehlohonolo Lesia, said no mining operations would take place before the relocation of households that need to be moved out of the leased mining area and setting up of a full-scale operation plant.
To set up the plant, he said they have to find a reliable water source as they are going to operate at three times their trial mining capacity. The water supply will also consider the needs of the community.
“We have also been using generators to power our operations but going forward we will need a bigger and more reliable supply and we have sought a quotation to install electricity from the power grid,” Mr Lesia said.
He also said they would strive to ensure that the activities are done in warm engagement with the community so that all parties benefit.
“I therefore hope we are going to have fruitful deliberations which are going to be beneficial to all parties. We do not want to have a situation where by one of the partners will later cry foul about these issues,” Mr Lesia said.