Misanet.com / Botswana Gazette, 14 June - The De Beers Group, which is a shareholder in the Botswana Gope Exploration Company that discovered diamonds at Gope in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, has distanced itself from the removals and resettlements of communities in the Central Kgalagadi.
But De Beers, which is in partnership with Falconbridge Exploration on the Gope project, has put the development of the diamond deposits on hold. However, De Beers Company Secretary, Ms Sheila Khama said that should they decide to go ahead with the mining of diamonds at Gope it would never be necessary for her company to request the removal of those communities.
- Whether or not any communities in vicinity of the mine are to be re-settled for any other social reasons is a matter for the Government of Botswana to consider and decide upon, she said.
Ms Khama said the partnership has not made any decision on whether or not to go ahead with mining at Gope. "The company reserved the right to review the economic viability of the project from time to time so as to decide whether or not to proceed with full scale mining," said Ms Khama.
The joint venture has been granted a retention license covering an area of 45 square kilometres which is valid until 2003. The area that would be directly affected by the mine is only 20 km˛ increasing to about 45 km˛ to include the outer parameter fence of the mining lease area.
This area lies 50 km inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve which covers a total of 55 000 km˛. "We are aware of one settlement in the vicinity of the mining lease area outer parameter fence," said Khama.
She continued that the Environmental Management Programme Report of March 1998, produced by an independent consultant estimated that there were 8 families with a total of 72 people in the settlement. However, she points out: "These families were not at Gope when the prospecting activities started, but were attracted to the site by the water that the company intersected during drilling and made available to them and continues to do so today."
Presently, the families are not inside the would be mining lease parameter fence, therefore they would not interfere with the mining operations." She also dismissed fears that the exploration has left large holes on the ground that were making the area unsafe for inhabitants. "The company has two employees permanently at Gope to secure the property and a Safety Officer visits the area once a month to assess the situation to ensure that safety standards are maintained."
- For the last year and a half the company has actively been rehabilitating the area with the removal of the old miners camp, the geology camp site, other structures around the shaft, the explosive magazines, old water piping no longer in use and other redundant materials, said Ms Khama.
The Council Secretary of Ghanzi District Council Mr Morakanyane under which Gope falls, said there has been no communication so far to brief the council on the latest developments. He said the last communication they had as Ghanzi District Council was when the Minister of Minerals Boometswe Mokgothu visited them last year and told them that preparations were at an advanced stage to open the mine. "The Minister of Minerals and the Department of Mines are still to come back to the council to brief us on the latest developments at Gope," he said.
Councillor Douglas Tharese of Ghanzi also told The Gazette that the only information they had was from Minister Mokgothu to the effect that mining will start shortly. "Already a road has been constructed from Molepolole to Ghanzi. We have no information that there will be no longer mining activities at Gope. What we were told was that it may take time before our own people were employed," said Councillor Tharese.
Gope mine has been the centre of controversy since the government decided to move people from inside the game park. The government was accused by a number of NGOs in Botswana, and internationally of giving preference to mineral deposits and wildlife over people.