Botswana mining nothing, displacing no one?

Author:Sharife, Khadija
Position:Botswana
 
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A diamond company may soon start mining in the disputed Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana. The Botswana Environmental Department "has indicated that they do not objective to mining within the CKGR in principle," says a representative of Gemstone which bought the concession from De Beers recently, but don't tell that to the Botswana government. Khadija Sharife reports.

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The term Gope, an appellation describing a region located within Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), quite simply means nothing. Botswana is the world's largest diamond producer, and the CKGR lies smack dab in the middle of one of its richest diamond fields.

Since the early 1970s, this precious gem-stone known as "Adamas" or "Invincible" by the Ancient Greeks, has transformed Botswana-a country of less than two million people. Diamonds comprise over 80% of the economy, 50% of government revenue, and 35% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Although Botswana holds 23% of the world's diamond market with a cumulative total value of $3.2bn annually, one third of the population lives in poverty.

The country has an official unemployment rate of 24.5% while unofficial estimates place it at 40%. This, despite the fact that the country has one of the world's highest economic growth rates, with a per capita GDP of $11,000 in 2006. The bulk of Botswana's 288,000 strong labour force is concentrated in the mining industry.

Southern Africa overall contributes about 43% of the world's uncut and unpolished diamonds, directly implying that little or no benefit is accrued by the continent when it comes to finishing the product--as yet. In 2003, 92% of industrial diamonds were cut in India; other finishing hubs include Tel Aviv, New York and Amsterdam.

The Belgian city of Antwerp is known as the "diamond capital" of the world, even though Belgium produces no diamonds. Over 80% of gem diamonds are cut and finished in Antwerp, while 84% of finished diamonds are sold in New York, USA.

The diamond trade is a global cartel controlled by a few key players, the most prominent of which is De Beers, founded in 1888 by Cecil Rhodes. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, De Beers has a presence in over 25 countries and is the primary handlerof more than 45% of the world's diamond trade. In 2005, its revenues exceeded $6.5 billion. De Beers is active in all aspects of the diamond industry, from exploration to mining, trading and finishing, sales and...

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