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25 july 2022
james_campbell_excl_xx.jpgBotswana, which is one of the top diamond producers in the world, continues to provide legal certainty and financial incentives for diamond exploration and mine development, according to James Campbell, the managing director of Botswana Diamonds.

He said no other African government provided sufficient financial incentives for diamond exploration companies.

The diamond exploration junior predominantly has operations in Botswana and South Africa.

It is also interested in exploring diamonds in Zimbabwe.

Botswana Diamonds’ managing director also said the company has plans to transition to a diamond producer from exploration.

Campbell said they will establish a commercially viable operation in South Africa and Botswana if they conclude funding to acquire the Ghaghoo diamond mine from Gem Diamonds.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

What is the level of funding for diamond exploration work?

Funding for diamond exploration and development projects remains tough. Botswana Diamonds is currently the only active junior who is engaged in diamond exploration and project development in the Southern African region.   

How have you been managing to raise funds for your exploration activities in Botswana and South Africa?

Botswana Diamonds plc came about when the AK6 (now Karowe Mine) portion of African Diamonds was sold to Lucara Diamond Inc and the exploration assets in Botswana remained thus Botswana Diamonds was spun out.

The board and management of the company are significant shareholders and many of our shareholders are loyal followers of the 162 Group led by Dr John Teeling who has delivered significant returns to shareholders over a long period.

For example, the original shareholders in African Diamonds plc achieved a 25 times return on their investment.       

How are the African governments encouraging diamond exploration?

Governments can deliver legal certainty, simplicity and financial incentives as far as exploration and mine development is concerned. On legal certainty and simplicity, Botswana is one of the stand-out performers in Africa and for many years was in the top position in this area in the Fraser Institute annual survey.

Sadly, no African governments have provided sufficient financial incentives, such as the Canadian Flow-Through Share scheme and thus 95% plus of investment in diamond exploration and development projects comes from the UK, Canadian or Australian financial markets.

Apart from Botswana and South Africa, which other African countries do you consider highly prospective?

We consider Zimbabwe as being highly prospective but currently, only four companies: ZCDC, Alrosa, Anjin and Rio Tinto Zimbabwe are allowed to operate in the diamond exploration and development space in Zimbabwe.

How confident are you in establishing a commercially viable operation in South Africa?

We are confident that we will establish a commercially viable operation in South Africa and if we can conclude funding to acquire the Ghaghoo diamond mine from Gem Diamonds Ltd then the same will apply in Botswana.

What is your reaction to claims that you are now more focused on South African projects?

Over the past couple of years, that is during COVID times, we have been able to partly continue our fieldwork at Thorny River in South Africa. However, in Botswana, we have been very active from a corporate perspective namely: acquisition of Sekaka Diamonds Pty Ltd from Petra Diamonds Ltd; exploration farm-out agreement with Diamexstrat and Burgundy Diamond Mining; the lapsed conditional acquisition of Ghaghoo Mine from Gem Diamonds Ltd and most recently, the conditional acquisition of an increased stake in the Maibwe JV.

How optimistic are you about becoming a diamond producer?

It has always been Botswana Diamonds’ intention to become a diamond producer.

Botswana Diamonds’ subsidiary Siseko Minerals increased its stake in Maibwe after several years of negotiating with the liquidators of BCL Botswana. What is unique about this diamond JV?

The Maibwe joint venture is host to some of the most prospective diamond grounds in Botswana located in the 'last frontier' for diamond exploration in Botswana's Kalahari.

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