Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BCP meets with Gem Diamonds

The management of Gem Diamonds met with Botswana Congress Party leadership to brief them about their preparation for the operations of Gope Mine inside the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).

The BCP was represented by Secretary General Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang and Vice President Ephraim Setshwaelo while the diamond mining company sent its Managing Director Hail Mphusu and Operations Manager Howard Marsden to the meeting.

The meeting was organized by Seed Communications which has been engaged by Gem Diamonds as its public relations company.

The Government of Botswana recently granted a mining licence to Gem Diamonds despite the denials some years ago that there was diamond prospecting inside CKGR.

Despite the persistent denials the establishment of the huge US$3 billion mine near the Basarwa community of Gope was approved last month.

The life of the mine at Gope is currently estimated to be in excess of 30 years.

Details of the mine plan and the relevant staged capital expenditure will be released at the time of the announcement of the Company’s 2010 results on 15 March 2011, the company announced. Gobotswang confirmed that the meeting which took place last week Wednesday was to brief them about what the company has been doing in preparation for the mining activity.

This involves consultation with the relevant communities and issues of Environmental Assessment Plan (EAP). Gobotswang said his party pointed out its concerns to the leadership of Gem Diamonds. “We told them issue of relocation has not been resolved. They are going to contend with issue of Basarwa of CKGR and their relocation.

“We told them we as the BCP have taken a liberal interpretation of 2006 court judgment,” said Gobotswang of the judgment that ruled that Basarwa’s forced relocation from the reserve was illegal. He also said they told the company representatives that in fact the latest Court of Appeal judgment also showed that to the case. Basarwa two weeks ago registered a major victory against the government when they won an appeal to have access to a borehole inside the reserve.

A panel of five judges ruled that the appellants have a right at their own costs to re-commission the borehole at Mothomelo in the CKGR and to sink more boreholes at any suitable site inside the reserve. The other issue raised by BCP was the issue of informed consent, because the party believes when a multiparty cooperation consults with the marginalized and oppressed people like Basarwa “it raises into question whether they really [Basarwa] consented”.

The party also said it drew attention of Gem Diamonds’ to the fact that existing international conventions on the protection and promotion of indigenous populations supported the contention that the mining company needed to have taken that into account.

The party also questioned the company’s close association with Department of Wildlife and National Parks because the BCP feels the department’s hands are not clean.

“There are persistent claims that they are brutalizing, harassing and humiliating those people in the CKGR.” Gobotswang admitted that the meeting was useful to the party.

“In our minds we had thought there was going to be a township like in other places where there is mining. They told us there is going to be temporary structure for the duration of the lifespan of the mine which is 30 years,” he revealed.


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