BC Clark Magazine 2023_2024

James was educated about the country’s unique relationship with natural diamond mining, which at 33 percent is the largest contributor to the country’s GDP. Botswana was a British Protectorate from 1895 to 1966 when it declared its independence. Diamonds were discovered the following year, and the mineral is owned by the country per the prescience of the country’s first president, Sir Seretse Goitsebeng Maphiri Khama. Any diamond-related industry is conducted via a licensing agreement with the government, which puts more than 80 percent of revenues back into the country’s economy. Botswana has a large middle class and investment in critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, roads, and schools. The Livingstone House Primary School is one of four in Orapa funded by Debswana, a 50/50 joint venture between De Beers and the government of Botswana, providing free primary and secondary school education to every child. Many of the students’ parents are employed by the natural diamond industry, but the kids are encouraged to envision life beyond. “I asked them all what they wanted to be when they grow up and the answers were presidents, vets, doctors, rappers,” said James.

Lily James with students at the Livingstone House Primary School.

Orapa is home to two active diamond mines — the Orapa mine, owned by De Beers, and the Karowe mine, owned by Lucara, which recently secured $550 million to extend the mine’s life to at least 2040. That means more jobs, more growth, more progress and stability in Orapa. Karowe’s workforce is 31 percent female and 75 percent of its executive committee is female, including its CEO Eira Thomas. The mine supports 18 villages, reinvesting in their economies and communities via healthcare, education, agriculture and Gender Based Violence initiatives. “In some villages the girls didn’t have access to sanitary towels, so they weren’t able to go to school,” said James. “Now, Karowe is providing that for free. It’s such a simple thing, but the impact is huge.” James’s trip followed the route of the “rough” mined in Orapa to the city of Gaborone, where much of raw material ends up at KGK Diamonds, the largest diamond cutting and polishing facility in the city. Run by Siddarth Gothi, KGK prioritizes employing disabled and disadvantaged young adults. Armstrong Gabanamotse is a 23-year- old polisher who started with the company in 2019 and now operates KGK’s most technologically advanced machine, the Optimus, to yield fancy cuts. “From rough to the final product, when you look at it, it gives you a smile,” Kamanan said. “I’ve made something shine.” One of the final stops on James’s trip is the De Beers Global Sightholder Sales, where rough diamonds from all over the world are sorted and sold. Security is tight. More than 32 million carats in diamonds passed through the building in 2021. “You really feel the power,” said James, holding a 100 carat stone in her hand. “This is Mother Nature. These stones were created billions of years ago, lifted up to the earth’s surface via volcanoes.”

Diamond cutter at KGK Diamonds.


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