BUILT ON DIAMONDS
Celebrate Namibia series
From a feverish rush for riches and overindulgence to a sustainable
industry that created a value stream within Namibia for Namibians.
Before diamonds were found near Luderitz in 1908, the town was a tiny struggling settlement with a handful of residents. The small harbour was the only reason the town existed
as a scarcity of water, no tillable soil and zero employment prospects was not exactly a strong drawing card to settle here. But when word spread that Diamonds had been found in the area, the town had an influx of fortune hunters and soon new mining towns started popping up in the desert.
Kolmanskop, today the famous ghost town, was the wealthiest and most luxurious of all the mining settlements. It is said that Champagne was cheaper than water here – the water had
to be shipped in from Cape Town well over 800 kilometres away. The town had unknown luxuries for such a remote and small establishment at the time such as an ice factory, electric street lights and automated bakery. As these things usually go, only a few lined their pockets while others remained none the richer. Soon most of these fields were worked out and the onset of
WWI put a stop to the unsustainable lavishness that Kolmanskop was known for. After WWI, Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of De Beers, was granted exclusive
rights to diamond mining along most of the Namibian coast. Various mines were built, including Pamona, Bogenfels and Kolmanskop until the diamonds fields were exhausted. The main area of mining however switched to Oranjemund with the discovery of the diamondiferous raised beaches near where the town was eventually established during the 1930s. This area is so rich that it has been mined continuously for nearly 80 years and has yielded 65 million carats of high-quality gems to date.
It wasn’t until 1994, four years after Independence, that CDM entered into a partnership with the Namibian Government and Namdeb was formed. This was the first time that a part of the profits from Namibian diamond mining and sales came back to Namibia.
Debmarine Namibia became operational in January 2002, a joint venture marine diamond prospecting and mining company and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Namdeb Holdings.
During the 1960s it was discovered that large amounts of diamonds were to be found in the Atlantic Ocean having washed in from the Orange River. Today we know that Namibia has the richest known marine diamond deposits
in the world. Retrieving these offshore diamonds deposits as deep as 140m under the sea has brought Namibia the distinction of being the leading marine mineral mining country.
Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC) was established in 2007, another 50/50 joint venture between the Government and De Beers. NDTC was created as a flagship diamond sorting and valuing brand, contributing significantly to national growth and a sustainable future. Its aim is to provide sustainable, secure, effective and efficient services throughout the diamond distribution chain that adds value to diamonds, whilst driving downstream beneficiation for Namibia.
An additional step to the value chain of Diamonds in Namibia is the establishment and licensing by the Ministry of Mines and Energy in 2016 of Namib Desert Diamonds (Pty) Ltd
(NAMDIA). This company is entitled to purchase 15% of Namdeb’s yearly diamond production with the purpose to cut and polish some of these rough diamonds as well as selling to the international diamond industry including the UAE.
Apart from being one of the country’s main exports, the diamond industry has been responsible for the creation
of thousands of jobs for over a century. In recent years, through the creation of NDTC and NAMDIA, an active attempt has been made to add value within Namibia and bring more Namibians into the value chain. What started as a get rich scheme for foreigners has turned into a success story for Namibia and its people.