President Ian khama has hailed the opening of Ghaghoo Diamond Mine as an important milestone in government’s quest to transform Botswana into a mining power house and a world diamond center.
Khama said the opening of the mine will increase the supply of rough diamonds available for trading in Botswana over and above those from Debswana, De Beers operations around the world and Boteti Mining’s Karowe Mine. He said he is optimistic that this new development will advance Botswana’s transformation journey of becoming a destination of choice for access to rough and polished diamonds, as well as finished diamond products.
Gem Diamonds, a UK listed company, bring a track record and wealth of experience in diamond mining and marketing gained. Gem Diamonds in the year 2007, made the decision to acquire the Gope kimberlite deposit from Gope Exploration Company, a joint venture between De Beers and Falconbridge. At the time the Gope deposit had been inactive for more than seven years following the completion of the feasibility studies. Gem Diamonds remained resolute with plans to develop the deposit after the acquisition, even as the world experienced during 2008/09, the worst global financial crisis.
The Gope kimberlite deposit presents a unique challenge as not only does it lie beneath 80 meters of sand cover but it also lies in the middle of a protected area requiring an innovative mining solution to mine and do so safely, including protecting this pristine environment around us. I am happy from the briefings that I have received Gem Diamonds lived up to the challenge and indeed came up with an innovative solution to mine the deposit using an unconventional underground mining method. "I am optimistic that learning from mining this deposit will help unlock other kimberlite deposits buried under thick sand cover, particularly in the western part of the country. Our aspirations as a country are to see more and more diamond activities, especially those that add value, taking place in the country. Sales are certainly a first step in that direction, however our preferred end stage is to see the whole value chain with its attendant benefits of creating various opportunities for our people, taking place in the country," said Khama.
Gem Diamonds invested over P1 billion during the construction of Ghaghoo mine and there is potential for further investments to expand into another phase of the project. At the peak of construction 400 people, the vast majority of whom were Batswana, were at some point in time employed on the project. Currently the company 220 people employed, 98 percent of whom are Batswana. Over 90% of the senior management team is made up of our citizens.
A Corporate Social Investment plan is already in place and through it a Community Trust has been established and formally registered. The Trust will be used as a vehicle to assist the communities in the neighbourhood of this project. The Trustees are made up of representatives from the company, Lephepe and Kaudwane communities. In addition, Gem Diamonds Botswana recently participated in Government’s “Adopt-a-School Initiative” and has officially adopted the Kaudwane Primary school to great acclaim and appreciation from the community. The provision of power for the school for computer teaching as well as the construction of a new administration block are projects which will soon be undertaken. These projects represent the fulfillment of undertakings made to the communities during the consultation phase for mine development.