The two-day successful conference was hosted at the Safari Hotel in the capital Windhoek on November 23rd - 24th. During the conference, the National Earth Science Museum at the Ministry of Mines and Energy showcased some prestigious pieces of the Shining Lights Diamond Design Collection, some crafted by award-winning Namibian designers. At the exhibition, Simeon Niilenge Negumbo, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, launched the Diamond Book of Namibia “A Beautiful Journey”.
In his speech, themed “Diamond Beneficiation: Think global. Think Local.” Stephen Lussier, Forevermark CEO, De Beers Group – said: “Of course, it’s been a really tough time in the beneficiation sector but let me start by stressing that we absolutely recognise this. We fully understand and appreciate our government partners’ ambitions and desires when it comes to beneficiation and we are committed to playing our role in helping achieve these ambitions. Namibia’s success is our success; that is why achieving sustained beneficiation targets, is as much a key strategic priority for us, as it is for Government. We are also under no illusion concerning our producer partners’ need to earn a return on their capital to be sustainable.”
Industry expert Chaim Even-Zohar, who moderated the panels at the conference, said that despite the downturn, Namibia is still in a strong position. He argued that the country produces some of the best quality diamonds in the world, which often sell for high prices.
Namibia is a world leader in marine diamond mining, with an estimated 1.5 billion carats on its seabed. The Namibian government and De Beers Group have 50:50 equal shareholding in the Namibia Diamond Trading Company, with De Beers supporting the domestic cutting and polishing industry in the country.
“I’ve been privileged to come to Namibia since the first elections at Independence over 25 years ago, and am struck always not only by the spirit of continuing friendship, but also by the sense of resolute and responsible leadership—leadership evident in politics and society at large, as well as in governance of the diamond sector in particular. In this country, there is no “resource curse”; and prudent Government action over two decades has resulted in progressively increasing benefits from the nation’s diamond patrimony” said Maurice Tempelsman, Chairman of the board of directors of Lazare Kaplan International Inc. (LKI) “Part of leadership lies of course in recognizing that history provides no reliable trajectory—that past success offers no guarantee of future progress”.
Burhan Seber, Honorary Consul Republic of Turkey; Managing Director Hard Stone Processing (Pty) Ltd.; Former President of DIAMAN, highlighted the distress experienced by manufacturers: “The industry is in crisis. Manufacturers have been facing crippling challenges since 2011. These and added troubles have brought the complete diamond pipeline under critical strain and to a tipping point.”
He continued: “There is very little doubt that the current model has failed. Is ‘beneficiation’ over?” “Take away profit, and there can be no beneficiation. In hard times, when companies regroup and consolidate towards their power base, their foreign investments tend to be the first out. Beneficiation is not an act of charity, but an act of sharing. “
The Diamond Commissioner of Namibia, Kennedy Hamutenya, expressed the national sentiment around Beneficiation: “We want to be part of the downstream business, we want to know what happens to the value of our diamonds”.
“The opportunity cost for us is the polishing and cutting diamonds elsewhere, losing a major chunk of share on the pipeline”, “We need the bulk of our Namibian diamonds to also work for us, to create job opportunities, to transfer skills, to transfer technology, to bring to Namibia more value added, foreign exchange revenue…”
The conference concluded with a prestigious Gala dinner, addressed by RT Hon. Dr Saara Kugongelwa Amadhila, Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia, which hosted over 300 people at the Parliament Gardens of the capital.
LucyMay Lubrani, Strategist and Business Development Manager at Ogilvy & Mather Namibia, said: “Overall the conference was an accomplishment, that shows how Namibia can handle world class conventions. On behalf of the Organizing committee we would like to thank once again the Namibian Police and NDTC, for the successful way they secured the conference, allowing all stakeholders to focus on the crucial topic at hand with peace of mind”.