DTC Botswana is upbeat about its plans aimed at having a successful beneficiation exercise in Botswana despite the fact that the completion of its multi-million pula new office has fallen behind schedule.
The titanic building was initially expected to be in operation by November this year but the board last week told The Sunday Standard that the building will not be ready for occupation until March next year.
DTC Botswana’s head, Brian McDonald, said they had experienced some delays in the construction of the building saying “it’s now expected to be complete by February next year with the handing over in March”.
The building is expected to mark another landmark in the history of the diamond industry in Botswana, following the movement of the sorting and valuing from Debswana House in the 1980s to the present day Orapa HouseÔÇöwhich is owned by De Beers. The new building will come at a time when Botswana Diamond and Valuing CompanyÔÇöa subsidiary of Debswana ÔÇö will be liquidated with both the Botswana government and De Beers opting to go along with DTC Botswana.
The building, which lies on ground equivalent to eight rugby fields in size, will be equipped with the stateÔÇôof-the-art technology, the latest sorting machines in the world that help in defining the stones’ colour and clarity and, to save time, there are three sorting halls, each 100 meters long.
Further, it will have several teleconferencing facilities, diamond vaults built to withstand pressure from would-be robbers, state of art security with CCTV cameras that can see from afar, and will have a restaurant at the ground floor with a capacity of taking 600 people at a go.
The plan had to be designed in such away that in three year it will have to handle trade amounting US $ 550 million but still with the budget of US $ 400 million.
“It will have the latest technology that was designed in house (London office) and it will be handed over around the first week of March,” McDonald said on Wednesday.
Explaining the beneficiation process, Varda Shine, DTC London’s head and chairperson of DTC Botswana, said what will be happening will “add value” to what has already been happening.
“DTC London has been looking at what is happening around the world and we saw how we can assist our producer governments to add value at source without compromising value,” she said.
“We all agree that there is need to cut costs since labour costs are higher in Botswana than in China and India. What we are looking at here is to identify and cut goods that can be profitably done in Botswana,” the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Kago Moshashane, said, rebuffing the suggestion that beneficiation can not work.
He advanced the same stance in Antwerp recently to the dismay of some of the neighbouring countries and to Sergey Vybornov, the president of the Russian diamond giant, Alrosan, who has witnessed the dismal failure of diamond beneficiation in his own country. Some of the neighbouring countries were lobbying for a region subsidy programme to entice manufacturers in a bid to assist the growth of the industry.
“Botswana is not going to give a subsidy to cutting companies,” he said, adding that there was already a tax concession of 15 percent under Botswana law because they, cutting companies, are treated as manufacturers.
“We do not want to see damage done on the rough side. Government must continue to get money from diamond and, with this, government should get more receipts,” he said. Moshashane said the local manufacturer will have to buy like any other around the world, adding that the difference is that they are being assured of supply of rough.
“We have to ensure that they are going to be sustainable and sustainability can only come from competition not subsidy,” she said.
Among the measures which embolden DTC Botswana about the success of the beneficiation initiative in the country are the levels of skill, technology and the global reach of the local players. The modern technology, especially the laisers designed from Israel, will give Botswana an edge to catch-up with the low labour cost countries such as China and India.
“The level of skills and technology is going to catch up with other centers. And the big element is productivity,” she added.
Shine has already laid out plans for the successful implementation of the beneficiation exercise by appointing two men with local experience to head the programme.
“Brian will be doing a lot of beneficiation and he will be assisted by Tim Dabson, the DTC London Director for Beneficiation),” she added.
Dabson, credited for his world-wide experience including the downstream activities, was recently roped in by Shine so that he can guide the process from DTC London’s central London office at 17 Charter Street. He has worked in London, Antwerp, Teemane in Serowe and Asia before and within the diamond industry.
“Tim Dabson brings a wealth of experience from all over the world,” McDonald agreed.
Meanwhile, Dabson is working on plans that will determine the future of Orapa House after his last month’s meeting in Gaborone with the original designer of the building who dismissed suggestions that it can be turned into an office block.
It is likely to be turned into a diamond centre.