Synthetic conundrum

Baitshepi Sekgweng
CONFIDENT: Bruce Cleaver INSET: original vs synthetic

In recent years, lab grown diamonds have enjoyed a steady growth in popularity, to the point many experts feel they now pose a real threat to their natural brothers.

As the leading diamond producer by value in the world, Botswana would be in trouble should synthetic gems replace natural stones at the top of the lucrative diamond pile.

However, it seems government, together with their strategic partners, DeBeers Group, have every confidence Botswana diamonds will continue to sparkle in the global market for many years to come.

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Synthetic conundrum

Briefing journalists on the sidelines of The Natural Diamond Summit in Gaborone last week, Minister of Minerals and Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his belief in a bright future for the country’s money-spinning mineral.

“We believe in natural diamonds and space we are operating in because these stones are rare and people will always want to have them. To showcase that this is a sector we will operate in for a long time, we are investing in skills transfer in pricing, marketing and exporting knowledge of our diamonds,” said Moagi.

According Moagi, US$11billion (approximately P146 billion) has been committed for use over a five-year period in order to explore Botswana for more diamond mining opportunities.

Debswana’s major projects, being Orapa Cut 3 and Jwaneng Underground Mine, are already at a planning stage, with in-depth studies being carried out for successful implementation. If successful, the operations are expected to add several years to both Orapa and Jwaneng’s life spans.

Synthetic conundrum

Echoing similar sentiments, Debeers Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Cleaver, said, “We market and advocate for our diamonds more especially the good that it has brought to this country. We are into the trade of rough diamonds space and other value chain business in the diamond industry. However, we cannot take our eyes from what is happening out there like in the case of synthetic diamonds. As Debeers we have a small investment in that area but this does not mean natural diamonds and synthetic diamonds are competing with each other.”

Cleaver, further alluded that a new contract between the Government of Botswana and Debeers will be sealed and concluded in a friendly and cordial manner.

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Botswana and Debeers proud partnership dates back to 1969 and has developed into one of the most successful public private partnerships.

However, talks between the two over a new sales deal have been a subject of discussion and in the limelight since 2020 when the old agreement expired.

Since then, the two parties have twice extended the existing arrangement. The current extension was announced in July and is set to end in June 2023.

Under the present deal, Botswana owns 15 percent of Debeers while 85 percent is held by Anglo American.

Further, through the Debswana joint venture, 75 percent of rough diamonds are sold through Debeers while the remaining 25 percent is sold through Government of Botswana’s Okavango Diamond Company.

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