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Rockwell Diamonds September / October 09 www. bus- ex. com 37 a publicly- owned company and we have to compete in the marketplace. We pay good wages, offer incentive options, and run a lean and mean organisation. We have a tiny head office- it has just three- and- a- half staff. The majority of our people are employed on the sites, in productive activities." What the company has also done is to invest in a modern earth- moving fleet, primarily of Komatsu equipment, and efficient infrastructure, deploying its expertise to make its efforts as effective as possible. " We use robust, proven and proprietary geological techniques to evaluate our claims," Bristow explains. " We put a lot of focus on optimising our recovery plants. And we give people ownership; we have a more entrepreneurial approach than the large companies. Our managers have the latitude to make decisions on site; we don't have a long chain of command." Rockwell owns almost all of its earth moving fleet and all its recovery plants which, it maintains, gives it both flexibility and control. The fleet and equipment is contemporary but is, in Bristow's words, " Africanised". " We have modern plants with modern technology and controls but we haven't gone over the top. We have the right technology, rather than high- tech, but with straightforward, hands- on operations and maintenance- we don't have to call Jo'burg to get something fixed," he says. " We use Komatsu equipment because it's robust. By keeping it simple, we ensure the people on the ground understand it, can operate it effectively and can look after it." Rockwell employs around 455 people directly, with a further 70 in a security company. It runs its operations on a five- day, three- shift working week, with planned maintenance and repairs done on weekends. After three good years from its foundation in 2006, the collapse in the diamond price led it to shut down operations completely for two months over its year- end. It is now operating three sites- Holpan, Klipdam and Saxendrift. A fourth operation, Wouterspan, is currently on care and maintenance. Revenues are currently a bit better than AL2 STADLER, as a bulk fuel distributor, places significant emphasis on service delivery to our customers. As Rockwell Diamonds is one of our major clients, we are proud to be its partner. We value delivering a service to this client as its ethics and commitments mirror our own. AL2 STADLER wishes to secure this partnership and foresees a sound and healthy relationship in the future. AL2 STADLER break- even and its low cost base is further helped by its rehabilitation strategy. " All mining companies are obliged to make good their mining operations," says Bristow. " It's best to do that as part of the ongoing mining process. We don't want to come back in five years or something, when it may be more expensive. We run several pits in rectangular blocks and rehabilitation is continuous." The mines are inspected by the Department of Minerals and Energy's environmental agency and the company has to deposit rehabilitation bonds. " We survey and measure our mines each fortnight; the environmental agency has calculations for rehabilitation capital and the way we manage our affairs means that we end up committing a smaller rehabilitation guarantee." Rockwell has also been able to acquire a large footprint of diamond- bearing properties through making applications to the Department of Minerals and Energy ( effectively the custodian of mineral rights) and through acquisitions. It is also eyeing new land from competitors who have gone out of business. " We're currently producing over 2,500 carats a month and we're covering our costs," says Bristow. " We have an excellent pipeline of brownfields projects, the majority of these being high level terraces on the south bank of the Middle Orange River, in the same area as the Saxendrift mine. We're well- placed to benefit from the uptick in diamond prices as the market recovers," he concludes. The diamond business has been around for over 4,000 years and has faced challenges in the past, but it has survived and remains fundamentally strong. Interestingly, most of the world's earliest diamond production comprised large and exceptional stones recovered from the famous alluvial deposits of the large Krishna River in Andrha Pradesh state in India. Rockwell is successfully emulating this ancient history through its recovery of large, high- quality diamonds from modern alluvial mining operations on the ancient river terraces of the Vaal and Orange Rivers in South Africa. - Editorial research by Richard Halfhide