The world’s largest diamond producer De Beers’ group of companies has pledged its commitment to investing in the development of all its producer countries, beyond mine closures. Speaking during a media roundtable to launch the 2016 Report to Society, in Gaborone on Thursday, De Beers Group of Companies’ Head of Safety and Sustainable Development Deirdre Lingenfelder, said the group has increased returns to governments, communities, supply chain partners and its joint venture partners by 26 per cent to US$5 billion in 2016. A media statement released by the group on Thursday said as a result of improved financial and operating performance, globally De Beers Group returned US5 billion to stakeholders – a 26 percent rise on 2015 – through taxes, payments and dividends, emphasizing the importance of the relationships with stakeholders, including governments, communities, suppliers and joint venture partners in 2016. The report highlights that De Beers Group and its joint ventures spent more than P4 billion in Botswana in 2016 purchasing goods and services from local businesses. “The spend with Botswana-based businesses, which represented 81 percent of the Group’s and its joint ventures’ total procurement spend in Botswana, comprised payments for both core business and ancillary services,” said De Beers. The report also states that De Beers Group and its joint ventures also increased the amount invested in community development programmes in Botswana 31 percent to P124 million in 2016 and that funding was provided for a range of projects, including upgrades to community health and education facilities, accommodation programmes for key workers and cultural tourism.
Recognising the importance of Botswana‘s rich ecosystem, De Beers Group and its joint ventures also ran a number of programmes designed to protect species under threat or in danger of extinction. “This included a rhino conservation initiative, supported by Debswana – the 50/50 joint venture between De Beers Group and the Government of the Republic of Botswana – to increase the country’s rhino population through a breeding programme that then releases rhinos back into the wild,” the report stated. De Beers Group and its joint venture has also ensured that in Botswana there is further progress with workplace HIV/AIDS programmes, helping reduce the number of HIV positive employees in Debswana dying from the disease to less than one percent – down from 31 percent 15 years ago. The group also spent more than P49 million on training for employees; supported more than 100 businesses and 570 jobs through Tokafala, the enterprise development programme run in association with Anglo American. They also partnered with the Botswana Innovation Hub and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development to host the Inaugural Youth Innovators Conference, to develop entrepreneurship among young people. They showcased Botswana’s unique offering to business leaders in the US as part of a country-wide roadshow focused on supporting economic development and diversification. De Beers Group supported more than 640 jobs and 120 businesses through enterprise development projects in southern Africa, managed 164, 000 hectares of land for conservation – an area five times the size of that affected by the company’s mining activities; launched Diamox, Element six’s industrial wastewater treatment system that purifies highly contaminated water using synthetic diamond material and had invested a further US$5 million in the international Institute of Diamond Grading and Research’s Testing and Grading facility in Surat, India, helping to reinforce consumer confidence. “Following extensive research undertaken over the course of last year, the company is also working on a project to instigate the potential of carbon-neutral mining through storing large volumes of carbon in kimberlite tailings, the rock material left over after diamonds are mined,” said the statement.