History - About Us | Debmarine Namibia

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The journey of offshore marine diamonds started billions of years ago when volcanic activity sent diamonds into the riverbed of the great Orange River, which over millions of years washed the diamonds into the Atlantic Ocean.

Diamonds were discovered in Namibia in 1908, when railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a diamond that would change the course of history of Namibia. He handed it to his supervisor, August Stauch, and a diamond rush ensued in Kolmanskop, near Luderitz, resulting in the mining of millions of carats for colonial Germany until World War I in 1914. It is rumoured that those years the diamond deposits were so rich that Stauch and other miners could often simply pick up diamonds from the valley floors.

Innovative equipment was invented to treat the material – Plietz jigs, Schiechel pots, electric shovels, and the longest narrow gauge railway network in the world were introduced, all within the space of six years, to mine in this vast, challenging environment.

Work resumed after WWI with the various colonial mining companies having been combined into the Consolidated Diamond Mines of South West Africa, later to be renamed CDM, and the prospector Reüning, discovering the classic diamondiferous raised beaches near Oranjemund, which have now been mined continuously for nearly 80 years and have yielded 65 million carats of high quality large gems over the years.

In the early 1990s CDM was transformed into the modern Namibian diamond mining company Namdeb Diamond Corporation (Pty) Ltd, and through progressive legislation its seven mineral licences covering 16 000 square kilometres have replaced the old grant area of the Sperrgebiet, the 'Forbidden Area'.

In the 1960’s it was discovered that large amounts of diamonds were washed into the stormy Atlantic Ocean by the Orange River and offshore diamond miners pursued innovative methods of mining the unique deposits from the ferocious ocean. The most notable of these was a Texan oilman, Sammy Collins, who formed the Marine Diamond Corporation, which between 1961 and 1970, mined around one and a half million carats from under 20 metres of water.

Building on Collins's legacy, marine mining of deposits as deep as 140m under the sea, has brought Namibia the distinction of being the leading marine mineral mining country. Over the years, the various areas combined have produced around 95 million carats, including around 12 million from deep water marine mining.

History Timeline

  • A railway worker, Zacharia Lewala, stumbles on a shiny treasure near Lüderitz. The sparkling discovery leads to a major diamond rush.
  • Diamond mining regulations are introduced and the Sperrgebiet or (forbidden territory) is declared.
  • Sir Ernest Oppenheimer forms Consolidated Diamond Mines of South West Africa (CDM).
  • CDM concludes the Halbscheid Agreement with the South West African Administration, granting CDM the mining rights for the Sperrgebiet.
  • Diamond mining operations cease at Kolmanskop
  • Oranjemund town is established, which adopted its name from its geographical position at the mouth of the Orange River, the national boundary between the Republic of Namibia and South Africa.
  • CDM Head Office moves from Kolmanskop to Oranjemund.
  • Oppenheimer Bridge linking Namibia with South Africa is opened another higher, wider bridge is built two years later to withstand floods better.
  • Sammy Collins, a Texan oilman, formed Marine Diamond Corporation
  • First offshore mining concession granted – shallow water mining commences
  • Deep water exploration
  • CDM Head Office moves from Kimberley to Windhoek.
  • De Beers Marine South Africa is formed, in Cape Town South Africa
  • Deep water sampling and evaluation
  • Deep water mining development
  • mv Louis G. Murray made 1st haul of 29 000 carats
  • An agreement between CDM and the Government of the Republic of Namibia results in the formation of Namdeb Diamond Corporation (Pty) Limited. All De Beers Group existing Namibian mining licences and related rights are replaced by a consolidated and rationalized mineral agreement.
  • De Beers Marine Namibia shareholders (Government of Namibia and De Beers) agree that the company must migrate to Namibia, whilst ensuring no interruptions to its production operations.
  • The first phase was the selling and transfer of four production vessels to DBMN in the first half of 2001.
  • Debmarine Namibia commenced operations in January.
  • Migration of the workforce from Cape Town to Namibia.
  • Debmarine Namibia obtained its NOSCAR 5 Star status which has been maintained since then.
  • mv Ya Toivo chartered
  • Debmarine Namibia achieved the Top 100 International Award from NOSA for its safety management system
  • Diamond production from marine resources overtook land production for the first time, making Debmarine Namibia the biggest diamond producer in Namibia (922 000 carats).
  • Achieved record production of 1 million carats.
  • Debmarine Namibia awarded the Chamber of Mines Best Safety Programme Award
  • Debmarine Namibia achieved a level of 90% workforce from an initial workforce of 18% (2002)
  • Mining operations and support activities were temporarily halted due to the global financial crisis – mv Ya Toivo charter was terminated and the mv Grand Banks remained in lay-up until April 2012
  • The Government of Namibia and De Beers signed new shareholder agreements that changed the shareholding structure. The Government of Namibia increased its shareholding from 15% to 50%. As a result, Debmarine Namibia became a joint venture marine diamond prospecting and mining company owned in equal shares by the Government of Namibia and De Beers.
  • The trading name of the company became Debmarine Namibia.
  • Debmarine Namibia purchased mv Peace in Africa (mv Mafuta) the world’s largest marine diamond mining vessel from De Beers Consolidated Mines.
  • Achieved record production of 1.1 million carats.
  • Debmarine Namibia inaugurated the mv Peace In Africa and renamed it mv Mafuta.
  • Achieved record production of 1.273 million carats
  • Secured co-funding and commenced with construction of the mv SS Nujoma
  • mv SS Nujoma successfully launched on the slipway in the Kleven Verft AS shipyard (Norway).
  • mv SS Nujoma undertook its maiden voyage to the Port of Cape Town in July.
  • mv SS Nujoma arrived in Namibia waters in December

Namibia leading in Marine Diamond Recovery

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