De Beers, the world’s largest diamond mining company, poured scorn on recent accusations levelled against it by Survival International (SI), claiming that the mining company is currently undertaking exploration activities within the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) and whose outcome will be directly devastating for the Bushmen and the ecology of the area.
A statement issued by Survival International a fortnight ago said that SI had discovered that De Beers had returned to the CKGR after having sold its Gope resource to Gem Diamonds last year for US $34 million.
SI claimed that De Beers is currently doing some diamond exploration at MetsiamanongÔÇöwithin the game reserve.
“We are dismayed that De Beers feels that it can now return to the reserve whilst the situation with the Bushmen is still unresolved,” Steven Corry of SI said in a statement, adding that “presumably it hoped no one would notice”.
De Beers told Sunday Standard last week that although it has prospecting licenses in the CKGR, the licenses are due to expire next year and that it has not yet embarked on any exploration within the reserve.
“De Beers initiated a broad stakeholder consultation process on September 18, 2008 to evaluate the feasibility of conducting low impact, short-term exploratory work in our license areas in the reserve.
“While there was no clear consensus amongst the communities consulted, the discussion reaffirmed De Beers’ view that until such time as a sustainable long term management plan for the CKGR is agreed, we will continue to focus our exploration activities outside the CKGR.
“This is aligned to our existing strategy of supporting Debswana to procure further profitable carat production,” De Beers said.
But Survival has taken a belligerent stance saying that the new diamond exploration program will be “devastating for Bushmen and the reserve ecology”.
“We intend to do everything in our power to help them and that will include targeting De Beers and trying to persuade people to boycott De Beers until the Bushmen have access to their lands and water,” Corry stated.
De Beers is 15 percent owned by the Botswana government while the remaining shares are held by Anglo American and the Oppenheimer family. The diamond industry is Botswana’s economic backbone, contributing 33 percent to the country’s GDP and accounting for over 50 percent of government revenue.