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Finestar Inaugurates Namibia Factory

Mining minister pushing sightholders to polish more in the country

Jul 25, 2022 9:18 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... Mumbai-based manufacturer Finestar Jewellery & Diamonds inaugurated its Namibia facility, part of a broader beneficiation drive in the country. The company began operating in the capital city Windhoek in April 2021 but delayed the factory’s official opening so that Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo could attend.

The minister urged the industry to cut and polish more Namibian rough in the country, noting that some sightholders “abuse the concession” that allows a certain percentage of supply by De Beers’ local subsidiary Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC) to be exported.

“I want to encourage all sightholders who are buying diamonds from the NDTC to improve your operational efficiency and make sure that all the diamonds you buy from NDTC are polished and cut locally,” he said at the unveiling last week. “That’s the only way we are going to create a thriving industry.”

“I think going forward we are going to be a bit stricter to ensure that all the diamonds you have bought will be cut and polished in the local economy,” Alweendo added.

Finestar’s Windhoek factory utilizes 85% to 90% of the company’s Namibia rough supply, chief operating officer Nilesh Chhabria told Rapaport News — a high percentage relative to other sightholders, he claimed. Some categories of rough, such as those that yield I- to K-color polished, are intended for the Indian consumer market and sent to the company’s Surat facility for polishing, since India has a 5% import duty on polished stones.

Still, the inauguration allowed Finestar to cement its commitment to Namibia. The company employs 80 people at the Windhoek site, of whom about 70% are locals, and intends to increase its count to 100 over the next two months, Chhabria said. That includes skills beyond cutting and polishing, such as sales and software development, he added. Finestar has similar plans for its Botswana operations.

“Growth depends on the rough that is available,” Chhabria stressed. The company’s main source of supply is from De Beers. For its local southern African operations, the manufacturer buys at the miner’s sights via NDTC — a joint venture between the Namibia government and De Beers — and DTC Botswana. Finestar also has long-term contracts with De Beers Global Sightholder Sales (GSS) as well as with Rio Tinto, and buys rough at tenders and auctions to feed its factory in Surat.

The manufacturer’s focus is on larger diamonds above 3 carats, spread between its three facilities, with local Namibians entrusted to cut and polish stones as large as 12 carats, the company noted.

In 2016, De Beers renewed its 10-year supply agreement with the government of Namibia with the aim of raising the volume of rough diamonds available for beneficiation in the country. There are currently 11 cutting and polishing factories in the country, employing approximately 900 people, Alweendo reported.

Beneficiation should extend beyond diamond cutting and polishing to jewelry manufacturing to produce a complete ecosystem in the country, the minister added.

“If we don’t do that, we run the risk of not being able to make the case that this industry contributed to the livelihood of the people,” he stressed. “We need to make sure we are contributing to the lives of our people.”

Image: Namibia Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo visits the Finestar factory in Windhoek. (Finestar Jewellery & Diamonds)
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Tags: Avi Krawitz, De Beers, diamonds, Finestar Jewellery & Diamonds, Jewelry, Namibia, Rapaport, Rio Tinto, Tom Alweendo
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