Diamond Giant Explores Commercial Opportunities

Leading international diamond exploration, mining and trading company research and development (R&D) arm DebTech is making significant headway in commercializing its Metallurgical Services division, reports DebTech marketing manager Nico van Zyl .

The company announced its plans to commercialize its range of advanced mining technologies to the local and international industry in January this year, after it was used exclusively to support the exploration and mining operations of De Beers, which produces about 40% of the world's rough diamonds, and markets about 45%.

The company Metallurgical Services area supports the whole diamond-mining operation and is one of DebTech's divisions that includes Process R&D, Product R&D, and Product Supply & Support.

Van Zyl says that Metallurgical Services is divided into two service offerings, namely ore dressing studies (ODS) and technical consulting, which it is in the process of marketing to the South African market as well as the international diamond-mining fraternity.

These services are brought together by aligning competencies within the department. They follow metallurgical developments and share specialized skills, mentions Van Zyl.

He says the ODS division will target capital projects with the aim of lowering overall mining and processing costs by delivering improved conceptual flowsheets that precede the engineering design process.

The technical consulting offers metallurgical project assessment and operational troubleshooting and equipment evaluation, besides other services reports Van Zyl.

He says that the company will market the analytical services of its Metallurgical Services department, which works closely with De Beers project and operational managers.

We have the whole suite of services to support an operation with ODS and feasibility studies, which involves flowsheet equipment solutions and operational analysis, says Van Zyl.


The ODS service conducted by DebTech is done in order to glean as much metallurgical knowledge as possible, early on, from the exploration phase and onwards.

The company is supplied with drilling core and bulk samples, which it uses to assess the character of the ore and this is determined with specific metallurgical tests, reports Van Zyl.

The ODS includes a study of the concentration process of the ore, which is determined by a dense-medium separation (DMS) process, and this involves determining the size and density of the ore, explains Van Zyl.

This process would provide info to assist in deciding on whether to split the size fraction for the DMS process. We would also get answers on the percentage of yield for the DMS. The denser the material, the higher the percentage of yield that can be expected from the DMS, he says.

DebTech will then, based on the percentage yield contained in the bulk ore samples, together with diamond characterization data, determine the number of X-ray machines and diamond sorters required after the DMS phase.

The final step in the ODS process is water recovery in terms of settling characteristics and fine materials in thickeners, which would dictate the thickener's methodology and design, flocculent type and rate, mentions Van Zyl.

A process engineering design phase would follow a study of the metallurgical characteristics of the ore dressing and would include the use of both industry-standard and in-house software simulation packages, says Van Zyl.

Audit and technical consulting

He adds that the company characterization and treatment services provide the analytical capability, which includes process equipment evaluation and selection.

Here we do comparisons between suppliers to determine suitability for a specific mining operation, states Van Zyl.

The technical consulting service within the company Metallurgical Services operational unit involves four areas, namely liberation, DMS, recovery, and water and environment, mentions Van Zyl.

We do technical consulting together with plant audits. In the liberation audit, we would investigate the plant operation, and we would also look at diamond lock-up evaluation, which is conducted with the mineral resources department in De Beers, says Van Zyl.

He says that within the DMS process, it is never a case of one size fits all, as the concentration process is ore-specific, and inefficiencies in this process are likely to lead to diamond loss.

Similarly, the recovery area receives high-grade materials and, therefore, small inefficiencies can result in great revenue losses. We have a large capacity to assist operations with plant audit and technical inspection, and here we would look at improving X-ray and magnetic separation productivity, states Van Zyl.
Being manufacturers of X-ray and magnetic sorters, we have a wealth of experience in this area, he adds.

Environmental service

DebTech's water and environment consulting service evaluate slime treatment circuits and the improvement of the water circuit in a mining operation, reports Van Zyl.

We can determine the thickener efficiencies and rectify water losses. We can also assist with thickener rheology (defined as the flow of fluids and deformation of solids under stress and strain) investigations. The company can conduct water corrosion assessments with the aim of prolonging plant-equipment life, he says.

The company is able to perform other functions relating to environmental hazards from current and new operations and provide solutions as well as health and safety protection guidance after the investigation.

DebTech and Metallurgical Services share a highly skilled and experienced group of specialists in appropriate areas to assist the diamond-mining operation with quality decision-making, states Van Zyl.

There is continuous interaction between DebTech departments to ensure that there is up-to-date information on every development and product support and supply, and that machine applications are adequately commercialized to benefit from the De Beers family of companies, he adds.

DebTech, which is located at Crown Mines, in the south of Johannesburg, will launch its commercial endeavors with a showcase of its products and services, which include diamond sorting machines and magnetic separators, at the Electra mining exhibition held in September.

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