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Gabon courts foreign investors to grow fledgling diamond sector

05 may 2020

meboua_essoukou_xx.pngDiamond production in Gabon, which has been a member of the Kimberley Diamond Certification Process since 2018, is currently dominated by artisanal miners.

The artisanal miners are producing about 300 carats per month, according to Gabon’s director of the Centre Permanent du Processus de Kimberley, Meboua Essoukou.

She told Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa through an interpreter that they now want the situation to change by attracting foreign investments.

Essoukou said that De Beers, SouthernEra of Canada and Motapa Diamond of South Africa had previously done some exploration work.

She said the foreign investors will be expected to continue with exploration work and possible commence mining ventures.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

What is the state of diamond mining in Gabon?

There is no industrial diamond mining taking place in Gabon at the moment and the exploitation that is taking place is done by artisanal miners.

Do you have any known deposits of diamonds in Gabon?

There are three areas that are known to have diamonds and these are Makongonio, Mitzic and Okondja. Diamond exploration was done in these areas and we are now looking for investment to conduct further work in these areas.

Was the exploration done on industrial scale?

This was done on industrial scale. Exploration was done by companies such as De Beers, SouthernEra and Motapa.

When did De Beers conduct diamond exploration in Gabon?

The last exploration work was conducted in 2003 and 2004. So since then there hasn’t been any exploration work done in the country.

Is there any company currently holding an exploration licence in Gabon?

No, not at the moment.

What are you doing to attract companies interested in diamond exploration in your country?

First of all, Gabon recently joined the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and we are now looking for investors.

How many companies are you looking at?

Two or three for a start.

Are you monitoring the activities of artisanal miners in Gabon, for example output levels and where they sell their rough diamonds?

Artisanal mining had been in place for a long time, but the majority did so clandestinely. The majority of them therefore didn’t declare their output to the government, but since Gabon joined the KP, most of them started declaring their operations to the government. Currently there is no platform to export the diamonds mined by the artisanal miners.

What is the Gabonese government doing to regularize the operations of artisanal miners to avoid illegal mining?

Since Gabon joined KP we have been teaching all the artisanal miners on how to comply with the law. We are simply teaching them the legal route to do business from the diggers to the people who buy the stones from them. Gabon has just joined KP, we are still learning the procedures and it will take time for us to master that.

Was there any study by government to establish the diamond resource in the country?

As I said earlier, the studies conducted in the country were done by private companies.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished