Jwaneng Diamond Mine – Africa
From the Editor: Barry Cole, owner of Beré Jewelers in Pensacola, shares his experience touring the Jwaneng diamond mine in Botswana, Africa with Coastal Lifestyle Magazine.
When Barry Cole, owner of Beré Jewelers – a Pensacola diamond hallmark for over three decades – moved his store from Bayou Blvd to his dream location on 12th Ave. in 2017, he had no idea the transition would inevitably take him to Africa. The store move, an expansion of his previously limited floor space to a sprawling 7,300 sq. ft. dream venue, added over 6,000 clients in the first six months of opening and generated a groundswell of new clients that continues to this day.
Four years prior – in March of 2013 – his business was accepted as a representative of the Forevermark brand, and less than six years after his acceptance by the De Beers Company subsidiary – an international diamond corporation known for its ‘responsible sourcing’ practices – Bere’ Jewelers would vault to the number two position in North America. Soon after, the brand would invite Cole to survey Jwaneng diamond mine, the richest known diamond mine on the planet.
Diamond Mining Process
Cole toured the site of the Jwaneng diamond mine – the largest and richest open pit operation in the world, located in south-central Botswana – in early September, stating that “seeing how the gems come from the earth to his customer’s hands” has been a career-long desire. Along with a limited number of hand-selected owners and top sales associates from over 400 stores in North America, Cole considered it a rare treat to witness how the rough diamonds are brought from the earth to their final, brilliant, polished product.
“They drill into kimberlite [an igneous rock that often contains diamonds],” the store-owner explained, “detonate it with explosives, load the fragments into massive trucks, then start the hour-long drive out of the mine.”
After that, the pieces go to the crushing facility – a 20-story fully-automated space – for further processing. The rough diamonds are then transported to DSS – Debeers Global Sightholder Sales in Gaborone Botswana – where the rough diamonds are sorted by size and quality. Ten times each year, over eighty sight holders from around the world gather at DSS to purchase the rough diamonds. Regarding the facility, Cole said, “it was like something out of a Mission Impossible movie,” going on to detail an extensive security infrastructure involving scanners, multiple body searches, and guarded checkpoints. “You just have no idea what all goes into making a diamond until you see it,” Cole said of the process, explaining the huge amounts of land, manpower, and time it takes to harvest the stones.
Responsible Diamond Sourcing
While a portion of the diamond trade – both legal and illegal – has come under scrutiny for unethical practices and exploitative policies over the years, Cole explained that to even be considered by Forevermark, it is necessary to meet a large number of strict rules and regulations. “Forevermark adheres to the Kimberley Process (KP),” he said of the De Beers brand. He went on to explain the responsibilities required by the brand – a list detailing acceptable working conditions, local conservation efforts, and plans to restore the natural landscape once mining operations have ceased, even in large mines like the Jwaneng diamond mine.
“You can only mine an area for so long before it runs out,” Cole explained, “and you have to have a plan to restore the land, and take care of the workers, to even be considered.”See Also
Out of the eighty-plus sightholders from around the world invited to DSS to purchase rough diamonds, only seventeen are allowed to cut for Forevermark, indicative of the brand’s thoughts on responsible policy.
“There are so many rogue companies that come in and irresponsibly mine, do irreparable damage to local ecosystems, and offer nothing to support or sustain the workers that they exploit,” Cole said. While in-country, Cole also met with the president of Botswana’s wife, who thanked him for all the industry has done in the area. Since gaining its freedom from Britain in 1966, Botswana has maintained fairly positive economic development in the face of much financial instability in neighboring regions. Workers at the site have their homes and the schooling for their children (even those who wish to study abroad) paid for by the corporation.
Going Beyond Responsible Mining Practices
“There are companies and groups that take advantage,” Cole admitted, going on to say how nice it is to be part of a company that gives back where so many only think of profit margins. In regards to his trip as a whole, Cole could only say that it was a unique gift to see how his diamonds are produced, and a welcome insight to know they are gathered in a way that is respectful of the local population and environment.“Recently, the company moved a population of 200+ endangered elephants to a preserve in order to keep them from being poached,” he said, remarking that it is this type of respect of native peoples, land, and the animals that live there, that make any industry truly sustainable, and he is very happy to be part of a brand that exemplifies such thoughtfulness.