The Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, told a Diamond Conference in Gaborone this week that Botswana recently acted swiftly to block synthetic diamonds being sold in the Botswana diamond market.
“Recently there has been yet another industry threatening development when diamonds produced in a laboratory were sold disguised as natural diamonds,” Kedikilwe said without disclosing the culprits.
He added that the incident could have not come at a worst time as the industry remains vulnerable to the ailing global economic conditions, in particular the euro zone crisis.
“Consumer confidence in our product is crucial and it is pleasing to note that detection remains at the forefront in defence against synthetic diamonds,” he said.
The synthetic diamonds were detected by De Beers technology and blocked from sell.
“Thanks to among others, the technology developed by our partner de Beers, these synthetics were detected for what they are. However, this incident reminds us of the need to not only remain alert and vigilant but also stay prepared,” Kedikilwe said.
Kedikilwe said the global financial crisis of 2008 reduced Botswana’s diamond production by almost half from 32.6 million carats in to 17.7 million carats in 2009 and the diamond cutting and polishing industry employment declined from a high of 3 267 in 2008 to a low of 2 183 in 2009.
“Employment as at the end of first quarter of 2012 was at 3 297,” said Kedikilwe.
He said the sales agreement which was signed last year between De Beers and Botswana government shifted the period of sale from five to 10 years and the Botswana government will independently sell for the first time 10-15 percent of Debswana production.
“The supply to local cutting and polishing companies will increase from $550 million to $800 million, as DTC International will relocate its sales functions from London to Gaborone by December 2013,”said the minister.
He said, “Over $6 billion worth of diamonds will be traded in Botswana, this money will flow through the banking system and add value in that sector.”