RAPAPORT... During his state of the nation address on November 13, 2006, Botswana's President Festus Mogae discussed sustainable growth, social issues, and the role diamonds play in the country's development.
President Mogae said that economic advancement would not have been possible for the 40-year old nation without revenue from diamonds. "There can be no doubt, that diamonds have played a major part in the transformation of our country's fortunes and the lives of our citizens.
"The mining sector, of which diamonds are a large part, accounts for 75 percent of Botswana's export earnings, about 50 percent of government revenue and 37.5 percent of gross domestic product," he told Parliament.
"Revenue from diamonds has enabled government to fund virtually 100 percent of basic education, provide virtually free health care, build the infrastructure that has supported our economic activity, and to fund 80 percent of the anti-retroviral drugs that have given hope to our fellow citizens living with HIV/AIDS."
President Mogae quoted a 2004 study (Botswana AIDS Impact Survey II) that concluded the national HIV prevalence rate was 17.1 percent. "Chobe is the most affected district at 29.4 percent with Kweneng West at 10.8 percent being the lowest. More females (19.8 percent) are infected compared to males (13.9 percent)," he said. (As a comparison with the United States HIV/AIDS prevalence ran about 1 in 282 during year 2004.)
Strong commodity prices during 2006, resulting from accelerated growth in China and India continue to drive interest in exploration the president said. "As a result of the strong prices, previously explored and known deposits such as Thakadu, Makala and the Dukwi copper deposits as well as those in northwest Botswana are being reexamined. Work is on-going to complete a feasibility study on the Dukwe copper deposits and mining is expected to start by the end of 2007."
"Diamonex Limited was issued with a license to re-open the Lerala diamond pipes. These deposits were previously mined on a trial basis by Tswapong Mine Company in the 1990s. It is expected that Diamonex will commence production during 2007, and produce around 300,000 carats per annum over a 15 year period," President Mogae said.
Additionally, results from a feasibility study on the AK 6 deposit near Letlhakane are expected before the end of 2006. The feasibility study will form the basis for a mining license application.
Eleven diamond cutting and polishing centers opened year to date for a total of 15 nationwide. Employment increased 25 percent to 954 workers. "It is now expected that over 3,400 new jobs will be created once the 15 diamond cutting and polishing companies have set up their operations," he said.