And what happened to a country like Botswana when they first discovered diamonds?
Diamonds come from all over the world, but mainly from Africa. And what happens to a country when diamonds are found? Just read this amazing story about Botswana which was one of the poorest countries in the world. Until 1967, one year after Botswana’s independence where De Beers, the huge diamond mining company found an enormous diamond deposit in Orapa, which is like 400 km. from the capital Gaborone.
This deposit is the world’s second-largest diamond deposit. The Orapa mine opened for diamond mining in 1971. And since then the living standards in Botswana have changed a lot.
You would probably think that all the resources were taken out of Botswana, and left the population poor. But that is definitely not what happened.
Instead, De Beers and Botswana formed a 50-50 joint venture, called Debswana, which is a diamond powerhouse, so to say.
Debswana owns 4 mines in Botswana and in 2018 they produced 24% of the world’s diamonds, which makes it one of the worlds largest producers of diamonds.
Debswana is also the second-largest employer in the country, after the government.
One of the mines Jwaneng, nicknamed “Prince of Mines” is the absolute richest diamond mine in the world.
And as Botswana owns 15% of De Beers, it is a true success story. Because it gives the government a lot to say about how revenue from diamonds should be collected and used. The government have negotiated that a large portion of the income generated by Debswana goes toward government revenues and this helps build schools and roads and get water to homes and farms.
In Botswana, they say that every diamond purchase represents food on the table, better living conditions, better healthcare, plus portable and safe drinking water.
Better healthcare was shown when the AIDS epidemic struck Africa in mid-1980s, and the president agreed to fight the epidemic, using government funds to provide HIV/AIDS drugs for every infected citizen. It was actually the first African country to do so. And it helped reduce HIV related death rates from 31% in 1996 to less than 1% in 2016
All the hospitals, schools and other facilities Debswana built in mining areas are open to the public, and not just to the mining employees, as well as they also offer better employment opportunities and leadership roles, as most of the executives in Debswana are Africans who have been trained by De beers. On top of all this, they also make special projects to get more women into leadership roles and provide funds for female startups.
So what happens to the animals?
They are taken care of too. De Beers has committed to giving 6 hectares of land to wildlife preservation, for every 1.5 hectares used for diamond mining, these enormous pieces of land are now home to more than 1700 animals including a field unit for Cheetah Conservation, as well as rhino conservation efforts including breeding and relocation of rhinos.
So all in all it’s a truly fantastic story.
And just a fun fact, Prince Harry proposed to Megan Marple with a diamond ring, with a huge centre stone from Botswana.