THE Ministry of Mining has set aside M5 million of its budgetary allocation towards the establishment of a diamond centre.
According to Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana, the centre would be established on the rationale that benefits from the precious stones would not be realised in mining alone, but also by adding value and shrewd marketing.
“The centre will be launched as soon as discussions towards temporarily housing it within the Central Bank of Lesotho building are finalised. A permanent location will be arranged at a later stage,” Mr Thotanyana said in an interview this week.
He said the facility, which would sort, valuate and classify the diamonds, was also meant to foster local participation and create more job opportunities in the sector for Basotho.
“The diamonds will be sold in an orderly and secure manner at the centre to both international and domestic buyers,” said Mr Thotanyana.
“Domestic buyers will be able to buy a certain percentage of the diamonds for purposes of cutting and polishing before reselling them.
“This is part of the government’s effort to introduce beneficiation in the industry as well as inspiring locals to participate for the purposes of job creation.”
The minister said it was time that Basotho were adorned with diamonds that were mined in their own country, since they are currently exported in a raw form to Europe where they are then processed and sold.
“We have realised that it is difficult for Basotho to access to Lesotho-mined diamonds under the current system since they are sold abroad,” he said.
“It is also strange that Lesotho is a diamond producer, yet Basotho don’t wear their diamonds. So, we hope this issue will be addressed when the centre starts operation.”
He said the centralisation of the sector would address accountability, security, and transparency issues affecting the diamond industry.
Mr Thotanyana also revealed that the ministry intended to renovate the national geoscience laboratory to facilitate mineral exploration activities. The ministry currently relies on the Council for Geoscience in Pretoria, South Africa for the analysis of soil samples and rocks collected from mineral exploration sites.
“You cannot place your dependency on other countries for too long because they can choose the information to divulge and keep from you,” he said.
“This year, we have budgeted M4.5 million to carry out the renovation exercise which will enable us as a nation to discover our own minerals. “This is a strategic investment which is part of the government’s attempts to be independent in managing our mineral resources. “Foreign investors and other countries should only come in to assist where we fall short.”
The Mining Ministry, Mr Thotanyana said, had also set aside M3.2 million for a geochemical mapping project to identify 23 minerals other than diamonds.
He said three quarters of the country had so far been covered and five anomalies of copper, nickel, zinc, uranium, and lanthanum had been identified, with resampling to be undertaken in the affected areas.