Plummeting fortunes in the diamond sector have thrown panic among workers at Debswana, with growing talk within the corridors of the world's biggest diamond producer by value that there are plans to close three of their four mines as they scale down production.
There are fears that the tremor caused by the collapse of the diamond markets worldwide as a result of slowing demand in India, China and the USA has started being felt at the home of the rough- Debswana, forcing the mining behemoth to shut down three of their four mines at the end of 2015, for an estimated three years. As commodity prices followed the downward spiral of diamonds among the largest consumers of Botswana diamonds producers like De Beers-the partner to Botswana government in Debswana, announced a 12 per cent cut in diamond prices and further trimmed production by 32 per cent.
Word reaching The Patriot on Sunday is that Debswana will soon shut down operations at Letlhakane, Damtshaa and Orapa 1 mines for no less than three years, throwing approximately 1000 employees into the streets. Distressed workers at Debswana said midweek that they have picked up information suggesting that the mine was considering closing some of their operations to scale down on production as demand for diamonds worldwide has dwindled.
Sources say already three contractors have been released by Debswana ahead of the closure, which was scheduled for end of November but has been moved to January 2016. Debswana spokesperson Esther Kanaimba-Senai said on Friday that as management they were not aware of any such impending closure. She said management has never made the decision, let alone discuss such a possibility. "That (allegations of closure) is news to me. But due to the turbulence currently in the (diamond) market those fears may be fuelled by some people who suspect that a decision like that may be made," she said.
Notwithstanding Senai's denial sources insist that management is toying with the idea, and it is only a matter of time before an official announcement is made. Even the trade union representing mine workers is in the dark. Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) President Jack Tlhagale said on Friday that they were not aware of talk of an impending closure of the three mines. He said they had not received any formal correspondence from Debswana management and therefore were not in a position to form any opinion about the development. "Perhaps the issue is being considered at another forum but it has not reached us," he said.