Friday, November 09, 2007

New local diamond facility launched

Africa's efforts to derive greater benefits from its mineral wealth were boosted on Wednesday with the launch of South Africa's first black-owned diamond-cutting and -polishing facility.
Southern Africa accounts for more than 40% of the world's diamond output with Botswana being the world's largest producer of the gem and South Africa the third largest.
However, most of the stones are sent out to Europe, India or the United States where they are cut and processed -- a decades-long trend that governments in the region are trying to reverse.
Newcomer African Romance will take the precious stone "from mine to finger".
"We want to create a model that says Africa can do it," said CEO Mohseen Valli Moosa, adding that according to the latest available statistics, South Africa produced diamonds worth 12-million carats in 2005, but only 1% were polished in the country.
Moosa is keen to counter the negative reputation attached to some diamonds from Africa. Illegal trade in so-called conflict or blood diamonds has fuelled and funded wars in Africa, killing millions in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
His company is using diamonds to do the opposite -- to build communities.
African Romance gets its diamonds through a sister company partly owned by Canadian miner Etruscan Diamonds, which works in partnership with the Mogopa community in north-western South Africa on whose land the mines are located.
The Mogopa were victims of land grabs by the apartheid government in the 1980s. Their land has been returned to them through the land-claims process put in place after apartheid was toppled in 1994.
Now they are further benefiting from the wealth of their ancestral land through a number of projects set up by the mining company, including vegetable gardens and child-care programmes.
Diamonds in stock
Moosa said his company has a stock of diamonds worth 4 000 carats and can produce 30 polished diamonds a day.
Moosa was the former chairperson of a parliamentary committee that introduced legislation aimed at creating a local diamond-processing industry and bringing more black players into the industry.
"We can no longer allow the kind of colonial relations that existed before, where Africa was the source of raw material that benefited the north. Our objective is to encourage the optimal utilisation of our natural resources," said Sandile Nogxina, Director General of Minerals and Energy, who appeared with Moosa at a news conference on Wednesday.
Nogxina said his department is drawing up a strategy to encourage and guide companies interested in processing diamonds.
The government also recently announced the establishment of the State Diamond Trader, which will supply local cutters with 10% of the country's diamond production.
At a diamond industry meeting in Antwerp, Belgium, last month, De Beers Group MD Gareth Penny called on diamond traders in Europe, the US and Israel to back Africa's efforts to cut and polish its own gemstones.
At the same conference, Botswana Mining Ministry official Kago Moshashane said the country planned to create up to 3 000 jobs in the diamond-processing industry, while Antwerp World Diamond Centre chief executive Freddy Hanard said Africa's desire to take more of the business did not pose a threat.

New local diamond facility launched : Mail & Guardian Online