Bin Sulayem holds talks with the Minister of Mines to discuss rapid growth of diamond industry in line with needs of all stakeholders in supply chain
The UAE Kimberley Process Chair (KP Chair), Ahmed Bin Sulayem, has visited Lesotho where he met with Hon. Lebohang Thotanyana, Minister of Mines, in the Southern African country to discuss its rapid and sustainable development as a major diamond export hub.
Lesotho has been a member of the KP since 2003 and is widely recognised as one of the fastest-growing diamond producers in the world. Over 10 years, between 2005 and 2015, the value of rough diamond exports from the country has grown 278% from $64.3 million to $243.1 million . This year alone, at least four new mines were scheduled to open, which would look to quadruple annual diamond production.
“The diamond industry is playing an increasingly important role in Lesotho’s economy, and it is vital to ensure that as it grows in scale, this expansion takes place in an ethical and sustainable manner,” said Mr. Bin Sulayem. “The KP framework has been the vital pillar in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds across Africa, and it is our responsibility to continue safeguarding miners across the continent. With this in mind, we look forward to furthering our collaboration with Lesotho to ensure everyone involved in the country’s expanding trade is receiving their fair share.”
“We were delighted to host Ahmed Bin Sulayem, KP Chair in Lesotho. Our membership to the KP is very important as it enables our country to sell its diamonds in international and reputable markets. Lesotho is fast becoming a major producer and this emphasizes the need to remain a member of the KP and work closely,” said Lebohang Thotanyana, Minister of Mines.
The mining sector today contributes to 7.7% of Lesotho’s GDP, and the country aims to increase this to 10% over the next five years. It is also increasingly emerging as an important avenue to address unemployment in the country, which stands at 27%. While the mining sector employs 3,000 people currently, this figure is expected to grow to more than 10,000 by 2020. In order to do so, the government is undertaking legal reforms to modernise regulations to promote investment, while recognising the need for environmental protection and better health and safety standards.
The KP Chair also met Mazvi Maharasoa, CEO of Letseng Diamonds, during the visit. The company is one of Lesotho’s fastest-growing miners and had unearthed one of the world’s largest rough diamonds, the Letseng Star, a 550-carat stone, which had been unveiled in 2008 in the UAE, in conjunction with the DMCC and the Dubai Diamond Exchange.
“In looking to support the future of the diamond industry in Lesotho and the role it can play in addressing important issues such as unemployment in the country, it will be essential to engage industry players,” added Mr. Bin Sulayem. “To do so, it is essential to create a framework that allows artisanal and small-scale miners to sell the diamonds they discover, as it is important to ensure their needs are taken into account, while also delivering important revenue for the country.”