Home » Botswana Launches $6 Billion Diamond Project Amid Synthetic Threats

Botswana Launches $6 Billion Diamond Project Amid Synthetic Threats

President Masisi Highlights Economic Risks from Lab-Grown Diamonds

by Adenike Adeodun

In a strategic move to counter the rising threat of synthetic diamonds, Botswana is set to launch a $6 billion expansion project at its flagship Jwaneng diamond mine. President Mokgweetsi Masisi highlighted the critical economic role of natural diamonds as he prepared for a pivotal industry event in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, as Botswana geared up for one of its most significant mining projects, President Masisi voiced concerns over the increasing popularity of lab-grown diamonds, which pose a significant threat to the nation’s economy. Speaking to reporters before his departure to the United States, Masisi emphasized the dire consequences for Botswana if synthetic gems were to overshadow the natural diamond market. “If lab-grown diamonds take our space, then you and I are finished,” he remarked, signaling the high stakes involved.

Diamonds are not just a luxury in Botswana; they are a cornerstone of its economy, contributing up to 40% of government revenue, 75% of foreign exchange earnings, and a third of the national GDP. As the world’s top diamond producer by value and accounting for 20% of global rough diamond production, any shift in market dynamics could have profound implications for the country.

Masisi’s trip to the JCK Show, the world’s largest jewelry trade event, is part of a broader strategy to reinforce Botswana’s position as a premier provider of ethically and responsibly sourced diamonds. During the event, he plans to engage in what he describes as a “peaceful assault against lab-grown diamonds,” aiming to boost confidence in natural diamonds and mitigate the allure of synthetic alternatives.

The upcoming project, a collaboration between Botswana and diamond giant De Beers, aims to extend the operational life of the Jwaneng mine from its expected closure in 2032 to 2054. Slated to begin on June 28, the project’s first phase involves a $1 billion investment to enhance drilling operations and develop infrastructure necessary for future expansions.

Since its inception in 1982, the Jwaneng mine has been a prolific source of diamonds, averaging 11 million carats per year. It employs over 2,100 permanent staff and 3,200 contractors, making it a critical economic engine for the region.

Aside from promoting natural diamonds, Masisi is also set to tackle international regulatory challenges. He aims to lobby against a proposal by the Group of Seven (G7) nations that would require all diamonds entering their markets to be certified in Antwerp, Belgium. This move, primarily aimed at curbing the flow of conflict diamonds and as a sanction against Russian gems post-Ukraine invasion, could significantly impact Botswana, given that the United States alone consumes about 40% of the world’s diamonds.

As synthetic diamonds continue to gain a foothold in the global market, Botswana’s proactive steps to enhance its mining capabilities and champion the cause of natural diamonds at international forums are more crucial than ever. The country’s economic stability heavily relies on its ability to maintain a competitive edge in the diamond industry amidst evolving market preferences and stringent international regulations.


Source: Mining Weekly

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