The Managing Director of Debswana, Balisi Bonyongo, has paid a glowing tribute to the original diamond prospectors in Botswana calling them ‘dream changers’ during a seminar held in Gaborone on Friday.
The seminar entitled “The discovery of Debswana’s diamond mines-accounts from the original prospectors” brought together prospectors who discovered Orapa and Jwaneng Kimberlite fields who shared their trials, tribulations and joys of discovering diamonds in Botswana.
Bonyongo said that the work done by the prospectors was not an easy one and was not for the faint hearted as Botswana was one of the least developed countries in the world at the time.
He thanked in a special way Batswana men who helped during the prospecting, noting that though they were not earning much, they worked hard for the love of their country.
“I am a product of diamonds and were it not for them I couldn’t be where I am right now and all this is because of you,” said Bonyongo to the prospectors, who included some Batswana who helped during the prospecting.
The story of diamonds for development is a story for this tiny country which used them to elevate its people and help accelerate developments, said Debswana MD.
Dr Gaositwe Chiepe, the first Minister of Minerals and Natural Resources, informed the delegates at the seminar that there was mutual trust between government and De Beers when they partnered to start the mine operations.
She thanked the geologists who helped in discovering the diamonds which changed the economic landscape of the country.
Jim Gibson, one of geologists who helped in discovering the Orapa Kimberlite field and helped in setting up Orapa mine, said that Orapa diamonds were the first major African kimberlite to be discovered by using modern systematic sampling methods developed by De Beers in 1967.
Gibson revealed that the total expenditure used to construct Orapa mine was R95.5 million but Botswana managed to make P218, 33 billion in revenue between 1998 and 2011.
Gibson said that the demand for diamonds will increase from its current status with most consumers being from China and India. The geologist, who was part of the team that discovered the Jwaneng kimberlite field Norman Lock, said that their work was a taxing one but they were driven by passion to discover the precious stones.
He said that most people did not believe that they will survive the scotching heat of the Kalahari Desert but they proved that where there is desire anything is possible.