THE government is planning to benchmark the local diamond industry against the Botswana model to ensure that there is value added to gems before they are sold.
This was said in a recent meeting by the minister of Mining Keketso Sello. He said the new initiative will also ensure that all diamonds are auctioned locally.
The ministry recently visited Botswana, a visit that is expected to back the Mining Bill 2017 which also pushes local value addition and auctioning.
Lesotho exports raw diamonds to Antwerp in Belgium where they are then auctioned to the highest bidder before processing. Botswana on the other hand auctions its stones in the country; a model that the government intends to implement in the country.
Mr Sello said he was impressed by the progress that has been made in Botswana.
“You will recall that we are establishing a diamond centre and the Botswana visit aims to benchmark our operations against their model,” Mr Sello said.
He said the ministry is in the process of reviewing laws that regulate the trading of diamonds and other precious stones to pave way for the diamond centre.
The mandate of the centre will be to evaluate diamonds for determining applicable levies and taxes, to facilitate exports and imports of diamonds in Lesotho, be platform for buying and selling of diamonds and collect royalties on behalf of government as well as issuing cutting and polishing licenses.
The centre will also house a diamond valuator who has expertise in valuation, buying and selling diamonds. The valuator will ensure that standards are met and laws are observed especially the Kimberley Processing Certification Scheme (KPCS).
Lesotho diamond centre, which is meant to foster local participation and create more job opportunities in the mining sector will also create a secure selling process for local diamonds.
Part of the Lesotho delegation’s itinerary in Botswana included visiting Diamond Trading Company Botswana. The company is a joint venture between the Botswana government and the De Deers Group.
“I must say I was impressed by what Botswana has achieved in managing their diamonds. The transparency and professionalism in which they handle the whole selling process is impressive.”
He said they are also expecting a Botswana delegation to soon travel to Lesotho complete the benchmarking process.
“We have to complete review our legal framework first then we will have a better picture as to when we will establish the centre.
Former mining minister Lebohang Thotanyana in 2017 blamed the unusual sitting of Parliament for lack of progress in reviewing of the diamond laws towards establishment of the Diamond Centre.
“We were unable to make any meaningful progress on the Diamond Centre due to the unusual sitting of the parliament, which was later dissolved before completing its term.
“There was a draft bill that needed to be approved by the parliament towards the establishment of the centre. Now that the parliament has been dissolved, nobody knows what is likely to happen after this year’s general elections,” Mr Thotanyana said to the Lesotho Times in 2017.