Botswana GDP shrinks most since 2020 as diamond output plunges

Botswana’s economy contracted by the most since the peak of the pandemic in early 2020, after diamond production plunged.

Gross domestic product shrank an annual 5.3% in the first quarter, compared with growth of 1.9% in the prior three months.

The downturn was primarily influenced by a decrease in real value added of the diamond traders and mining & quarrying industries of 46.8% and 24.8% respectively, Statistics Botswana said in a report Friday.

Botswana is the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds by value, with the revenues making up the bulk of the southern African country’s budget receipts. The decline is likely to make meeting its fiscal targets for this year difficult. The central bank already warned last week that the government would probably miss its economic growth forecast of 4.2% because of weaker mining output.

The global diamond industry almost came to a standstill in the second half of last year as De Beers and Russia’s Alrosa PJSC — the two biggest miners — all but stopped supplies in a desperate attempt to stem a slump in prices. That hit earnings at De Beers, which mines more than three-quarters of its diamonds in Botswana.

Earlier this year De Beers said it expects any recovery in the beleaguered diamond market to be slow and gradual as the industry continues to suffer from weak economic growth in key markets such as China and the US.


Botswana may raise De Beers stake as Anglo weighs spin-off

The Botswana government may raise its shareholding in global diamond miner De Beers, President Mokgweetsi Masisi told JCK News, after parent company Anglo American said it plans to spin off or sell the business.

The government owns a 15% stake in De Beers and Botswana accounts for 70% of the company’s annual rough diamond supply.

Anglo outlined a radical review of its business including a sale or divestment of the diamond business to focus on copper, iron ore and a fertilizer project in the UK to fend off a takeover from bigger rival BHP Group.

Masisi told JCK in Las Vegas that Anglo’s sale of De Beers would be “the best thing” if it happens.

The government could raise its shareholding in De Beers “if it’s attractive to,” Masisi told the online diamond news channel. The president in May told CNBC Africa that government would defend its interests in the diamond miner.

Among the plans Anglo could consider is an initial public offering for the diamond business, Reuters reported on May 14, citing sources.

Like other luxury goods, diamond prices have been hammered by a slump in global demand. De Beers has been limiting supply and offering flexibility to contracted customers. In February, Anglo announced a $1.6 billion impairment charge on De Beers. Anglo acquired De Beers in 2011, buying the Oppenheimer family’s 40% stake for $5.1 billion.

Masisi told JCK News Botswana’s ideal partner in De Beers would be a long-term investor. The government will try to keep the “bad guys out” and wants investors whose vision is aligned with the government’s.

“One of the characteristics of a bad owner is someone who has impatient capital,” Masisi said. “This industry requires somebody who is in it for the long-haul, because it has its ups and downs.”


Botswana Diamonds expands its land holdings in the Kalahari

Diamond exploration company Botswana Diamonds has been granted four prospecting licences – covering just under 2 332 km2 – in the Kalahari of Botswana.

The prospecting licences are in the same general area as Gem Diamonds’ Ghaghoo mine, as well as Botswana Diamonds’ own KX36 project.

“I am pleased that we have been awarded these prospecting licences in the Kalahari of Botswana, which we believe will be the next major diamond-producing area in the country.

“Exploration is a long game, particularly diamond exploration, and we believe the industry is going through a structural change which will see the natural product, particularly from Botswana, find its premium niche in world markets,” chairperson John Teeling comments.

Source: Miningweekly

G7 Sanctions Will Harm Botswana’s Diamond Development, Officials Say

The Group of Seven (G7) import restrictions targeting Russian diamonds will have a detrimental impact on Botswana’s diamond trade and may reverse the gains the country has made in recent years, government officials told Rapaport News.

The proposal to create a single-node location through which all diamonds should pass to verify G7 compliance would be a logistical nightmare for producer countries, Lefoko Moagi, Botswana’s minister of mineral resources, green technology, and energy security, said in an interview.

“It creates added time in terms of processing our diamonds and it affects our beneficiation trajectory,” Moagi explained. “This may bring about added costs and unintended consequences that will affect the producer countries.”

In December, the G7 — which comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, as well as the European Union — announced new restrictions to prevent the flow of Russian diamonds to their markets. The measures include a ban on direct imports of diamonds from Russia, taking effect at the beginning of the year. From March 1, the sanctions were extended to Russian-origin diamonds polished in a third country, which prompted each G7 nation to issue interim guidelines requiring self-certification by members of the trade declaring their goods did not originate in Russia.

A blockchain-enabled traceability system will be implemented in the final stage on September 1, which the European Commission stipulated will require verification of the diamonds in Antwerp.

Systems in place
Botswana is concerned such a system will result in delays and additional costs, and consequently slow down the development of its own trade.

The government is petitioning the G7 to allow such verification to take place in the producer countries, particularly in Botswana, since it can easily adjust its processes to meet the G7 requirements, noted Emma Peloetletse, permanent secretary to the president, in a separate interview.

“Why not build on what already exists, because we have it?” she contended.

The government hosted the G7 working committee in January to demonstrate its systems and to convince the group that a local registration point can be trusted without fear of contamination by Russian goods.

“The G7 working group was shocked to see our robust systems,” Peloetletse said. “These took years of work and investment to develop.”

She expressed frustration at the lack of engagement by the G7 following the visit and that the working group didn’t have the answers to Botswana’s questions.

Risk to the economy
As a nonaligned nation, Botswana is not opposed to the sanctions, Peloetletse stressed. The country is primarily concerned about the effect their implementation will have on its diamond industry, and subsequently on the economy, she added.

Diamond mining accounts for an estimated 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), while diamond cutting, polishing, and trading makes up about 5%, according to local economist Keith Jefferis, managing director at econsult Botswana.

The domestic economy was estimated to grow 3.2% in 2023, Finance Minister Peggy Serame said in her budget speech on February 5. That represents a slowdown from 5.5% growth in 2022, reflecting “the relatively weak performance of diamond trading and mining activities throughout 2023,” she explained.

Serame projected the economy would grow 4.2% in 2024, but noted several risks that could reverse such gains. Among them are those from within the diamond industry, particularly in the beneficiation subsector, “which would be worsened by the G7 plan to verify the origin of non-Russian goods through diamond certification in Antwerp,” the minister said.

After the De Beers high
The government continues to rely on diamonds to elevate the standard of living in the country and expects its new sales agreement with De Beers, announced last June, will be a catalyst for continued economic growth.

“Diamonds are something we guard with our lives, given what it has done for Botswana and what it can still do for the country,” Moagi said. “That resonated throughout our negotiations with De Beers. There was a meeting of minds with them to reach an agreement that can really boost the economy.”

The agreement will see state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) increase its share of local production from 25% to 50% over the next decade. That will enable ODC to introduce contract sales and subsequently designate rough for beneficiation — something it has been unable to do with its current auction-only sales channels.

The government wants more diamonds to be manufactured in Botswana and views that program as a path to encourage local entrepreneurship in the diamond trade, Moagi explained. ODC is planning to include an allocation for citizens to incubate local diamond manufacturers looking to develop in the beneficiation sector, he continued.

The deal also marked the establishment of the Diamonds for Development Fund (DDF) as a way to enable entrepreneurship both within and outside the diamond industry, the minister explained.

While the De Beers agreement left the government on a high, the G7 plans burst its bubble, Peloetletse added. “Now, when we are supposed to reap what we have sowed, we get this,” she said. “It has left us very anxious about our prospects.”

African lobby
The concern is shared by other producer countries. Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi met with his counterparts in Angola and Namibia in late February and sent a joint letter to the G7 leaders outlining their concerns. Their sentiment was echoed by the African Diamond Producers Association (ADPA), which emphasized the negative economic consequences the G7 measures would have on the entire diamond supply chain.

“In the absence of proper consultation with African producers, it is concluded that the G7 restrictions on diamonds will disrupt the current supply chains and the fundamental business model of the diamond sector by introducing segregation requirements,” the ADPA said in its February 29 statement.

Minister Moagi is hoping for stronger engagement with the G7 decision-makers, rather than just the working committee. There is a sense that not all G7 members agree with the proposed approach to implementation, and that the African producers can leverage their position to negotiate a more practical approach, he said.

Brace for the worst
Ultimately, the African producers, and Botswana in particular, want a stronger say in how their production is handled and leveraged.

While giving license to others to tell the Botswana story, there has been a realization that those outsiders have their own agenda, Peloetletse said. “There is nobody who can tell our story better than us,” she stressed, while referencing the country’s path toward independence as a former British protectorate.

In a similar tone, Moagi stressed that from Botswana’s perspective this is more than an economic issue: “It is an assault on our democracy and the sovereignty of countries,” he cautioned. Peloetletse added that the G7 sanctions constitute just one example in which Botswana is still trying to exert its independence.

Other battles include the reclamation of land from foreign entities, after the government in November set aside BWP 1.4 billion ($102.6 million) for the acquisition of 45,000 hectares in the country’s Northeast District from British-registered Tati Company. While Tati’s status as the largest private landowner in Botswana stems from a 1911 allocation, the recent deal sparked a debate about why the country should pay such a hefty price for its own land.

The government is also engaged in a battle over its wildlife policy as European legislators attempt to ban the import of animal-trophy hunting products from the country. With the largest herd of elephants in the world, and an oversupply of game, the country must manage its ecosystem and incentivize communities to coexist with the animal population, Peloetletse explained. The government has granted the rural communities quotas for trophy hunting, arguing that banning the practice would greatly affect the livelihoods of their residents.

The convergence of these issues, and most notably the potential impact of the G7 sanctions on its diamonds, has left the government feeling uneasy and uncertain how to move forward, said Peloetletse, whose role is to advise President Masisi.

“We have to brace for the worst-case scenario because it’s not clear the G7 is willing to listen or know what it means to our economy,” she said. “Once you close the diamond tap, and the tourism tap, then we’re done, and that’s not what Botswana wants. We aspire to be a high-income country. We want to liberate ourselves.”

Source: Rapaport

Botswana Assigns $65M for Stake in Belgian Manufacturer

Botswana has designated BWP 890 million ($65 million) from its new fiscal 2024-2025 budget for the purchase of a 24% stake in Belgian manufacturer HB Antwerp.

The deal, which it first announced in March, calls for the African country to supply rough from state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) to HB Botswana for five years. The partnership would operate in a similar fashion to HB’s previous supply deal with Lucara Diamond Corp, enabling Botswana to retain a share of the polished profits.

Lucara terminated its rough-supply agreement with HB in September, citing a “material breach of financial commitments” by the Belgian manufacturer as the reason for the split. That decision came on the heels of HB’s departure from cofounder and managing partner Oded Mansori, whom it has since reinstated to his original role.

There was media speculation late last year that the Botswana government was pressuring Lucara to reconnect with HB, and that the split could affect Botswana’s interest in the manufacturer. Lucara owns the Karowe mine in Botswana. The miner has since announced that it planned to form new supply deals with other vendors.


Good news for Botswana Diamonds

Botswana Diamonds has announced that a gravity survey has been completed over four high-grade geophysical targets that had good magnetic response in a previous survey undertaken by the company.

“Preliminary results from this gravity survey show that at least one of the four targets, which is located 6 km south of the existing KX36 diamond discovery, has an excellent gravity response like that of known kimberlites and similar in size to KX36. The survey on the KX36 size anomaly is being repeated and correlated with previous results for confirmation. Next steps will be a drilling plan.

The new kimberlites targets have great potential to upgrade the existing resources in the area, including at the Ghaghoo Mine, which is currently under care and maintenance and only 60 km away from the KX36 project.

The KX36 project is a 3.5 ha kimberlite pipe in the Kalahari. The pipe has resources of 17.9 Mt at 35 cpht and 6.7 Mt at 36 cpht at $65 /ct. The modelled grade range is 57-76 cpht at an estimated diamond value of up to $107/ct.

Botswana Diamonds Chairman, John Teeling, commented: “This is the first strong indication of additional kimberlites around the KX36 discovery. Kimberlites come in clusters, but extensive exploration has to date not been successful.

“The anomaly has a strong gravity signature which gives us confidence that when drilled, it will prove to be a kimberlite. The anomaly sits on a structure like all the other kimberlites in the Kalahari, which further increases confidence. It is early days but very good news”.

Source: miningreview

Diamond certification head questions G7 plans to ban Russian producers

Ahmed bin Sulayem, who this week was elected to take charge of the Kimberley Process, a multilateral body tasked with cleaning up the diamond trade, said any proposed scheme “must take into account African diamond producing nations” such as Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.

But the Emirati warned that a Belgian proposal to put restrictions on the international trade of diamonds, which the G7 is considering adopting, “falls well short of this important goal”.

The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell last week said the bloc was set to move ahead with a ban on Russian diamonds after securing sufficient backing from the G7 group of developed nations.

The diamond dispute is only the latest rift between Europe and African capitals. A ministerial meeting set for next week has been postponed after officials decided there was little chance that the two sides would agree on a joint communiqué containing language regarding Israel’s war against Hamas and Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to three people briefed on the discussions.

Botswana’s ODC halts diamond sales as industry seeks to reduce glut

Botswana’s state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) has temporarily halted its rough stone sales as part of an industry-wide drive to reduce the glut of inventory caused by lower global demand for jewelry, its managing director Mmetla Masire said on Tuesday.

ODC, which reported a record $1.1 billion in revenue in 2022, holds 10 auctions a year to sell its 25% allocation of production from Debswana Diamond Company, a joint venture between Anglo American’s (AAL.L) De Beers and Botswana, in terms of the partners’ gem sales agreement.

Debswana produced about 24 million carats last year, with ODC getting an allocation of about 6 million carats.

The company has cancelled its November auction and a decision on the December sale is still to be made as the industry battles slowing demand for cut and polished diamonds in the U.S and China, Masire said.

“For the first time, we have had to build up inventory as we do not want to just irresponsibly release goods into a market which is already oversupplied,” Masire said in an interview. “For now, we have stopped the auctions, we will decide on the December auction.”

Last month, trade bodies in India, which cuts and polishes 90% of the world’s rough diamonds, urged members to halt rough diamond imports for two months to manage supplies and aid prices due to weak demand.

In August, De Beers said it would allow its customers to defer some of their purchases for the rest of the year.

As part of a new agreement between De Beers and Botswana, ODC’s allocation is set to rise to 7 million carats. Masire said the company was working on introducing contract sales, a model that De Beers uses to sell 90 % of its supply, among other new sales channels.

“We are still to decide on what percentage of our allocation will be sold through contract sales to complement our auctions,” Masire said. “We are likely to have two-year sales contracts and we are looking at going into partnership with only a limited number of buyers so that we can better serve them.”

Reporting by Brian Benza; reuters

De Beers signs 10 year sales deal for Botswana diamonds

Anglo American Plc unit De Beers and Botswana’s government signed a deal covering the main aspects of a new sales and mining agreement for their Debswana diamond venture in the African nation.

The pact covers a new 10-year sales deal for Debswana’s rough diamond production through to 2033, along with a 25-year extension to the Debswana mining licenses through to 2054, De Beers and the Botswana government said in a joint statement on Sunday.

The terms “provide further detail and clarity to the commercial and operational aspects of the agreement in principle between the two partners” announced on June 30, they said. Among them are stipulations for the apportionment of Debswana supply and other economic arrangements, they said, without giving further details.


HB Antwerp co-founders clash over gem trader’s future as Botswana deal looms

Diamond processor and trader HB Antwerp said on Monday it had removed one of its three co-founders from management following differences over strategy, a development that comes amid a pending sales pact with major producer Botswana.

Oded Mansori, who co-founded HB Antwerp in 2020 with partners Shai de Toledo and Rafael Papismedov, said he was taking them to court over his removal.

“On September 1, HB terminated Mr Oded Mansori’s management role in all the HB Companies,” the Belgian company said in a statement, citing a “sharp difference in strategic vision and approaches to business”.

The government of Botswana, the world’s No. 1 diamond producer by value, said in March that it had agreed to buy a 24% stake in HB Antwerp. As part of the deal, state-owned Okavango Diamond Company would supply HB with an undisclosed quantity of rough diamonds for five years.

The deal is yet to be signed.

Mansori, a long-time diamond dealer, said in a separate statement that he was “determined to defend his vision and to fight for the wellbeing and the future of HB,” and that “a legal process is currently underway in court.”

Mansori, who declined to comment further, said he was still a shareholder in the company.

HB also has a partnership with Lucara Diamond Corp, buying stones of 10 carat quality and above from the Toronto-listed miner’s Karowe Mine in central Botswana at prices based on the estimated polished outcome of each diamond.

Lucara did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the legal tussle could impact its own deal with HB Antwerp.

In 2022, HB Antwerp partnered with Microsoft to track mined gems via blockchain, as consumers focus on clearing the supply chain of fraudsters and diamonds mined in war zones and sold to fund insurgencies.

Other diamond miners, including Anglo American’s unit De Beers, also use blockchain platforms to trace their diamonds and verify authenticity.