Its more than 13 years since Debswana set out to introduce Scannex machines in their operations in an effort to curb the theft of diamonds. The company is currently using the strip and search method which is said to be ineffective. The decision to introduce the Scannex machines was taken after De Beers Group of Companies ranked Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa and Jwaneng mines as the least secure within their company scoring less than 44% which is the lowest. De Beers has mines in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. One of the reasons for the introduction of the machines is to minimise the stealing of diamonds, especially from the Completely Automated Recovery Plant also known as the red zone.
Of the 673 stolen diamonds from Debswana mines from 1988 to 2011, the anus remained the most popular area to hide diamonds at 36 per cent, followed by between buttocks at 30 per cent, socks and hair at 14 per cent. Other methods of concealing the diamond include mouth, under scrotum, underwear and clothing. The company started the process of securing their mines by consulting all stakeholders around 2004 including Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU). In February 2015 the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) completed the public review report on the project with the only objection coming from BMWU. Since then DEA is yet to give Debswana a go ahead to install the machines. DEA has asked Debswana to state the number of times that the employees would be expected to be exposed to these scans in the different areas of the mine per day “in order to determine the possibility (or lack thereof) of exceeding the limits.” “If the Scannex produces such a low dose, which is also regarded as safe, why are certain categories of persons being excluded? Isn’t that proof enough that there remains an uncertainty on safety of ionising radiation?” asked part of DEA report. There is also fear that exposure to ionising radiation could result in cell death, cell damage, cancer with prolonged exposure leading to death. Debswana submitted their environmental assessment impact report to the Department of Environmental Affairs in August 2013 and have been awaiting the response. Debswana is said to have tried all in vain since 2015 to seek even the intervention of mining minister to resolve the issue with his environmental minister counterpart.
The delay by DEA is said to be frustrating Debswana management as the prices for procuring the machines is also increasing due to their high demand. The company wanted to install 10 full body Scannex machines at four of their mining operations being Orapa, Damtshaa, Letlhakane and Jwaneng mines. Debswana Corporate Manager Matshidiso Kamona confirmed that they are still awaiting the decision by the DEA on the EIA. “At this stage, Debswana only awaits a decision by the Department of Environmental Affairs within the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism on the company’s Scannex Environmental Impact Assessment application,” she responded, adding that it is the last stage of the required regulatory clearance. Asked what could be causing the delay, Kamona was diplomatic choosing only to say that they cannot speculate on the reasons for the delay.
What is a Scannex?
Scannex is a low X-ray dose, full body scanner for the purpose of resource protection. The machines’ primary application is the detection or deterring of illegal diamond trade by personnel at diamond mining operations. Efforts to get a comment from Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama were futile as he did not respond to the message sent to him.