De Beers: A New Ship to Explore for Seafloor Diamonds

The mv SS Nujoma

The diamond hunter sets sail: World's largest gem finding vessel 

De Beers has officially launched the mv SS Nujoma, what the diamond mining giant calls the “world’s largest and most advanced diamond exploration and sampling vessel” to explore diamond deposits in the waters off the coast of Namibia.

The $157 million vessel is under the ownership of Debmarine Namibia, a 50/50 joint venture between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers Group. It is the only company in the world to mine diamonds offshore, having started in 2002. It produced around 1.2 million carats in 2016.

An inauguration ceremony was held Thursday in Walvis Bay, Namibia, attended by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Founding President Dr Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, who the vessel was named after, as well as Obeth Kandjoze, Namibia’s Minister of Mines and Energy.

Mining of Namibia’s diamonds takes place at around 120 to 140 meters below sea level, Debmarine Namibia says. Through the advanced exploration capabilities of the mv SS Nujoma, the company expects to increase resource development for the mining fleet.

The mv SS Nujoma is the first in the company’s fleet of five other vessels to be dedicated to exploration and sampling. It incorporates a range of technologies that allow it to sample faster, take larger samples and collect more information per sample than any other diamond sampling vessel. It is capable of sampling at more than double the speed of its predecessor.

The company says the 12,000 ton diesel-electric powered vessel has created 140 direct new jobs, the vast majority of which have been filled by Namibians. At 113 meters long, it can accommodate a crew of 80 and has a helicopter deck suitable for Sikorsky S61s. It was constructed in Ulsteinvik, Norway, and fitted with a "subsea sampling system," designed by De Beers Group, in Cape Town, South Africa. The inauguration followed five months of successful sea trials.

“Offshore diamond mining is becoming increasingly important in meeting global demand for diamonds as many of the major onshore deposits have now been discovered,” said Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group. “The mv SS Nujoma will allow even more of Namibia’s high quality offshore diamonds to be discovered and mined, ensuring a strong future for Namibia’s diamond industry, as well as the global diamond market.”

Diamond mining is the single biggest contributor to Namibia’s economy. The partnership between De Beers Group and the Namibian Government delivers more than N$10 billion ($776.5 million) in revenue annually.

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