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1 - Diamond Dependent Economic Wealth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2013

Kenneth Good
Affiliation:
University of Botswana
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Summary

From the outset, diamonds, the De Beers corporation, economic growth and the government have been closely interlinked in Botswana. De Beers had begun exploration work in the protectorate in 1955, and ‘shortly before independence’, corporate chairman Harry Oppenheimer told Seretse Khama ‘in confidence’ that viable diamond deposits existed at Orapa in Central District. This potentially momentous news was not publicly announced, however, until 1967 (Masire, 2006: 204). The De Beers Botswana Mining Company (Debswana) was established to develop the site in 1969. Production of high quality, kimberlite gems, in low-cost, open-cast operations, began in 1971 and expanded further at that site in 1979. Another mine opened at Letlhakane in 1979, followed by Jwaneng, the largest and richest in 1982. By the turn of the century Jwaneng was reputedly the world's richest and most profitable diamond mine. A fourth, Damtshaa, came on stream soon afterwards. Diamonds also existed at Gope, inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), from where San/Bushmen have been uprooted, in 1997 and in 2002.

The value of diamond exports rose from $43 million in 1976 to some $1400 million in the mid-1990s, when minerals, mostly diamonds, represented around 35 per cent of GDP (Jefferis, 1998: 303). In 2002, Botswana's total diamond sales amounted to $1.8 billion and it typically produces around 25 per cent by value of the world's rough diamonds (The Ecologist, 2003).

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2008

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