October 23, 2008

Renewed attacks on De Beers

Almost a year since they went quiet, British NGO “Survival international” has launched a fresh attack on diamond giants, De Beers, claiming that the company has returned to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) for mining. Survival claims that there is exploration currently on-going at Metsiamanong in the CKGR. "Its new diamond exploration programme will be devastating for the Bushmen, and the reserve's ecology," Survival says. De Beers however denies the allegations.
Survival's Director, Stephen Corry, says: "We are dismayed that De Beers feels that it can now return to the reserve whilst the situation with the Bushmen is still unresolved. Presumably it hoped no one would notice. Hundreds of Bushmen still languish in relocation camps, unable to return home because the government won't let them hunt or use their water borehole".
However De Beers Botswana spokeswoman, Charmaine Revaka, says they have suspended exploration. "De Beers has resolved not to proceed with any exploratory work in the reserve to enable the outstanding issues to be addressed," Revaka says.
Revaka said consultations were conducted with a broad cross-section of stakeholders including relevant government agencies; NGO's and, critically, community organisations and the communities living in or with strong ties to the CKGR. "The consultation process revealed that despite the court ruling of 2006, some uncertainties remain regarding the status of the CKGR and its current and former residents".
Revaka says a broad stakeholder consultation process was initiated on September 18, 2008 to discuss the implications of conducting low impact, short-term exploratory work in their remaining license areas in the CKGR. Revaka added, De Beers is committed to treating its community stakeholders with respect, understanding and dignity. This means working with them to ensure that we do not infringe on their rights or interests".
She says De Beers "remains committed to supporting efforts to find a sustainable long term planning framework for mining activities in the CKGR that satisfactorily addresses the concerns of the government and all affected stakeholders". The De Beers spokeswoman clarified that although they ceased all mining and exploration activities in the CKGR in 2003, the company still retains a number of prospecting licenses in the wildlife and diamond rich area.
In 2007, De Beers sold its $2billion deposits in the CKGR for around P230 million or $34 million to Gem Diamonds in a move some interpreted as a sign of backing off from the controversial reserve.
The Bushmen took the government to court over their removal from the land in 2006. Among others, the Bushmen argued that they were removed from the land to pave way for diamond mining on their ancestral land. Survival International has staged campaigns against De Beers diamonds due to the company's involvement in the CKGR where the Bushmen risk losing their source of livelihood. Survival called for a boycott of De Beers diamonds, successfully persuading supermodels, Iman and Lily Cole to stop working with the company. The London NGO also staged protests at the opening of De Beers stores in London and New York. Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

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