Last week, Debswana’s Orapa Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) held a Stake-holder Engagement Forum in Orapa as part of the mines efforts to give its key stakeholders a briefing on the mines business update, community initiatives and impact of the mine’s activities.
The stakeholders included among others, local authorities, business community, heads of various government departments and enterprises from Boteti Sub District.
Welcoming the participants the Senior Support Services Manager at OLDM, Thatayaone Sithole said the engagement seeks to strengthen relationship between Debswana and its stakeholders particularly the communities that the diamond mining giant does business in. He said it is important to note that Debswana was given the land where it does business today by the very same communities.
“Orapa mine has been here for years and the mining town has a population of over 12 000 residents. OLDM has close to 3 000 employees. We are basically here to update our stakeholders about our operations and get feedback from them. They are our important partners,” he said.
In his presentation, the General Manager of OLDM, Bakani Motlhabani said it is very important for the stakeholders to know what the mines are doing as diamonds sustain the country’s economy.
“The objectives of this engagement include, business update, social way overview, feedback on the 2019 engagement, update on community grievances and update on Socio Economic Development,” he said.
Giving a business update Motlhabani said 99 percent of OLDM employees are locals(Batswana) and a few foreign contractors. He said the number of female employees has grown impressively. He said as Debswana they have a vision to become a global benchmark diamond business. Motlhabani also said they want to make life brilliant and want to improve the lives of all Batswana such as improvement on education and health. He further said the mines are guided by a number of values such as “Put safety first” and “Show we care”
“We currently have 2 973 employees of which 1859 are from Central region while 624 are from Boteti. 79 percent are male employees while 21 percent are female. We also give employment opportunities to the disabled and vulnerable groups. In fact opportunities are given to all Batswana,” said Motlhabani OLDM mines currently produce 12 million carats of diamonds per year. In 2018 the mines made a historic discovery of a 41.11 carats blue diamond which was named Okavango Blue.
The General Manager revealed that there has been a growth in citizen economic empowerment from the mines. He said local spend has grown by 155 percent in five years. Among other important issues he said work is in progress to open further Citizen Economic Empowerment opportunities through spend analysis to convert challenges into opportunities. Motlhabani also added that they have partnerships with local companies to transfer knowledge, skills and technology. He said they are also helping to develop citizen companies’ through supplier development, support and monitoring.
“We support transition of privately owned companies to predominantly citizen ownership by insisting on local owners,” he said.
He also said the mines uphold safety in high esteem. He said they are currently working towards zero harm through a number of safety initiatives. He revealed that the safety initiatives on technology to transform the employee attitudes and mindset around safe work are being implemented. Motlhabani said amongst other initiatives, they have alcohol tests to help reduce alcohol consumption. On some of their big projects, he said they have an FRD3 project aimed at building slimes dam to provide capacity for the life of the mine at Orapa. He said the project is progressing well and coming to completion.
“The project costed P2.3 billion. Expected completion date is April 2019. We have 60 contracts recorded, 20 percent citizen owned 50 percent foreign owned. Total manpower at peak was 1 200 and now it stands at 532,” he explained.
He also touched on the upcoming of the Cut three project. He emphasized that the project will bring along socio economic benefits for the residents of Boteti Sub District once it is approved. He said implementation of this project will include relocation of infrastructure such as the Orapa Technical College to Letlhakane.
“There will be employment opportunities and imparting skills to the communities. There will also be creation of increased business opportunities for small business, associated long term service providers expected to increase to support additional mine infrastructure and fleet,” the General Manager said.
On Corporate Social Investment, Motlhabani said the mine continues to contribute significantly to Education, Health, Community Development, Enterprise Development, Women Economic Support, Youth and Conservation in various communities in Boteti Sub District. Touching particularly on education he said the mines have early childhood development, school adoption, teacher development, bursaries and school leadership reinforcement.
“We are working in partnership with the Ministry of Basic Education. For an example we built outdoor classrooms for Makgadikgadi CJSS worth P250 000 in 2019, Two classromm blocks for Orapa CJSS also in 2019 worth P2.4 million.We also had a Diamond Dreams awards where we recognized high performance academic achievers in Boteti Sub District schools and we invested P500 000 into the project.
The stakeholder engagement forum also had a question and answer session. Most of the participants appreciated OLDM efforts in supporting and developing communities within its zone of influence but noted that more could be done by the mine. Some of the suggestions included rehabilitation of roads, helping to address shortage of water in some villages and properly compensating those who were displaced and affected by the expansion of Orapa Game Reserve. They also advised Debswana to work with Karowe Diamond Mine to bring about bigger developments in Boteti Sub District.
Kgosi Keletshwaretse Phetsogang of Mmatshumu village pleaded with the mine to help rehabilitate the 41km road from Matshumu to Mosu. He also took issue with the naming of the exceptional blue diamond that was recovered by OLDM in 2018.
“There was no consultation in naming this precious blue diamond that was found in Boteti. The name should have been from Boteti area where it was mined not Okavango,” he said.
However in response the General Manager Motlhabani said naming of the blue diamond was not their responsibility as it was done at national level by Okavango Diamond Company, the company that markets and sells diamonds on behalf of Debswana.
“When the diamond is in their possession, it becomes a national asset. They bear the responsibility to carry the naming procedure,” said Motlhabani.
Responding on the request from participants to carry out more developments in various areas, the General Manager reminded them that undertaking developments is not Debswana’s core mandate. He however said they always do their best to help communities where they can afford. He thanked the participants for providing the much needed feedback and promised that the event will be held annually as some participants had suggested.
“We are currently working with different stakeholders from government in addressing the issue of those who were displaced and affected by the expansion of Orapa Game Reserve,” he added.
The event was followed by a tour of the Adrian Gale Museum by the stakeholders. The museum show cases the history of diamond mining in Botswana by Debswana.