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Botswana says it is still keen on De Beers partnership, confident of new deal

GABORONE – Botswana wants to maintain its partnership with De Beers and is confident that ongoing negotiations for a new diamond sales agreement will succeed, a government spokesperson said on Tuesday.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s threats to walk away from the negotiations if Botswana fails to secure a bigger share of rough diamonds produced by Debswana, their 54-year-old diamond mining joint venture, have fuelled speculation that the government may end the relationship.

But in a statement, government spokesperson William Sentshebeng said the negotiations between the government and De Beers “are ongoing, and we are confident that they will result in a deal that will benefit both parties.”

Botswana’s share of Debswana’s output increased to 25 percent in 2020 from 10 percent in 2011. Although Botswana has not publicly stated what share it is seeking in the new deal, it is believed to be as high as 50 percent.

Sentshebeng said talks to renew De Beers’ diamond mining rights, which are due to expire in 2029, were also being held well in advance to allow for critical investment decisions.

De Beers and Botswana plan to invest in capital intensive expansion projects at their two largest mines, Jwaneng and Orapa, to extend their lifespans by another 20 years.

In March, Masisi’s announcement that Botswana will take up a 24 percent stake in Belgian gem cutter and trader HB Antwerp was seen as an attempt to reduce De Beers’ dominance over the country’s diamond industry.

But Sentshebeng said Botswana’s partnership with HB Antwerp was meant to secure a stake in diamond processing and value addition.

“The partnership with HB Antwerp will not affect or replace the partnership with De Beers, which is premised on mining and selling rough diamonds,” Sentshebeng said. – REUTERS.

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