The emergence of the lab-grown diamonds present a peculiar challenge that natural diamond producers should take lightly at their own peril, Namibia’s mines minister has said.
Minister Thomas Kavaningilamo Alweendo told a diamond mining conference in Gaborone, during a panel discussion on harnessing the power of collaboration to unlock opportunities, that Namibia and Botswana, for example, need to think of better ways to tackle this challenge and others.
“The benefits of diamonds in our countries are immense, especially in Namibia and Botswana, however we cannot rest on our laurels as they are challenges to come and I think together we can collaborate and find a solution,” he said.
Although lab-grown diamonds are a small fraction of the market, industry experts such as Paul Zimnisky have projected that they will grow by 22% annually.
The projected growth will be driven by continued advancement in technology.
He said the two countries will also face old mines.
“There some challenges that we are going to experience going forward, for example in both Namibia and Botswana, our mines are getting older and more and more expensive to extract diamonds from,” said Alweendo.
Namdeb, a joint venture between the government of Namibia and De Beers, recently sold its Elizabeth Bay Mine as it could no longer economically run the operation.
Meanwhile, the Namibian mines minister said governments should now be involved in the marketing of diamonds rather than leaving that to the diamond companies.
“For me the conventional model where companies pay for advertisements is no longer sufficient for us going forward and therefore we need to have collaborative efforts where we collectively tell the story,” he said.
“But that will only happen, unfortunately, when people, especially the communities where diamond mining takes place, believe they have a stake or derive benefits from the mining sector.”
Alweendo also said governments and companies should accept the new order of realities.
He said consumers as the only true source of value of diamonds are starting to demand that, “we don’t harm the environment where diamonds come from, and also that the people who work on our mines are working safely”.