It has been almost ten years since Business Excellence Magazine last visited De Beers Debswana in Botswana. In this near-decade, the country has continued its evolution, growing its GDP by approximately 50%, along with positive movements in almost every conceivable economic indicator. One thing which has not changed, however, is De Beers Debswana’s centrality to the Botswana growth story.
In any given year, diamond mining still contributes around half of the government’s revenue, underpinning its ambitious development plans. In 2023, De Beers Debswana is the biggest contributor to Botswana’s government revenue just as it was nearly a decade ago Four diamond mines - Orapa, Letlhakane, Jwaneng, and Damtshaa - are some of the most productive in the world. An offer made to Business Excellence to return to the mines was simply too good to refuse.
Debswana is the world’s leading producer of gem diamonds, with the four mines mentioned in the opening paragraph producing around 30% of global gem diamond output every year. No other mine provides as many diamonds to de Beers, itself a byword for extravagant diamonds. In fact, in total, Botswana’s diamonds account for approximately 70% of all of de Beers annual output - a remarkable tally that largely goes uncommented on.
Rough diamond sales from Debswana hit unexpected record highs in 2022, as Botswana benefitted from buyers shunning Russian diamonds. Sales rose nearly a third to $4.58 billion, compared to 2021’s sales volume of $3.46 billion. Not only did this result in a 66% jump in mineral revenues, but it also produce a record budget surplus in the country and the confidence to make more ambitious budgets for the coming year.
“Debswana stands and is proudly so committed to supporting the growth of our national economy. You cannot talk about the development story of this country without referencing Debswana We are in many ways the engine of economic growth for Botswana, and this is not a responsibility that we can or ever will afford to take lightly”. MD, Andrew Maatla Motsomi states. Debswana is the biggest private employer in Botswana with a current workforce of over 6,000, and 97% of that number are Botswana nationals. These employees, their families, and their communities benefit from several of the initiatives put in place by Debswana through the years. These include a wellness program, which includes a comprehensive health plan, educational initiatives that include running schools for employees’ children, and community health that extends to investing nearly $2 million in a local hospital.
The hospital has already made a massive contribution to the local area. Since its opening, it has provided high-quality care including specialist services like orthopedics and gynecology. Debswana also works in partnership with national and local government authorities to ensure that its investments are targeting high-priority areas of health. Finally, at the community level, it works closely with District Health Management teams to deliver sustainable health and well-being campaigns.
Mining sustainability at Debswana starts with its people; the over 5000 staff, 6000 contractors, and Unions that contribute daily to its operations. Its approach to sustainability has and will always be people first. To this end, the sustainably of the company is pegged around a conscious approach that ensures the people, community, and environment are consciously taken care of.
Debswana is deeply committed to safety, health, and environmental (SHE) management in its operations and to highlight this, in 2022 the Jwaneng and Orapa Operations, won the Anglo Golden Plants awards and Safety awards. The company's SHE policy and approach prioritizes employee well-being, environmental protection, and sustainability. Debswana maintains a strong safety culture, implementing procedures, training programs, and regular audits to prevent incidents and ensure compliance. The company also promotes a healthy work environment, offering medical services and programs to its workforce.
Environmental stewardship is also a core focus, with Debswana managing risks, optimizing resource usage, and investing in innovative technologies. Compliance, governance, and continuous improvement are key aspects of Debswana's SHE efforts, as the company aligns with regulations, engages stakeholders, and strives for excellence. Debswana mining company is committed to leading the way in the transition to a green economy and has set a target to become carbon neutral by 2030. According to Debswana's Head of Safety and Sustainable Development, Tefo Molosiwa, the company shares Botswana's vision of promoting a green economy and ensuring long-term sustainability. Debswana sees the green economy as a significant contributor to Botswana's sustainable development, and its strategy focuses on reducing energy intensity, decarbonizing electricity, and replacing fossil fuels to achieve carbon recovery.
The company has established game parks (Orapa game park and Jawaneng game park) within its mining lease areas around Jawaneng and Orapa to preserve wildlife. These parks provide a sanctuary for Botswana’s native wildlife. They exemplify the company’s commitment to promoting a culture of environmental responsibility. Furthermore, its mines have always followed the best international environmental management practice and each has been awarded the coveted ISO 14001 certification.
Partners and Suppliers
As one might expect of the largest diamond mining operation on the continent of Africa, Debswana’s list of partners and suppliers reads like a who’s who in the world of African mining Notable international names from the world of mining that will require no introduction include Epiroc, Komatsu, and Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology
However to discuss Debswana's approach to procurement and supply chain sustainability one must approach it with how it aligns closely with the company’s principles of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations. From an environmental perspective, the company places great importance on responsible sourcing practices. By prioritizing suppliers who uphold environmental standards, Debswana actively mitigates the impact of its operations on the environment. This includes minimizing carbon emissions, reducing water usage, and promoting the conservation of biodiversity. Furthermore, Debswana seeks to enhance environmental sustainability by exploring innovative technologies and processes that optimize resource efficiency.
From a social standpoint, Debswana's commitment to local/ regional procurement and supplier development significantly contributes to social responsibility. By engaging and developing local suppliers, the company creates economic opportunities and fosters inclusive growth within Botswana and the broader southern African region. The local cohort of partners and suppliers includes companies like Oxygas Limited, Lucient Engineering and Construction, RSC Sandblasting & Coatings Botswana, and AMSOL - African Marine Solutions Group just to mention a few. This approach promotes job creation, skill development, and capacity-building, empowering local communities and enhancing their socioeconomic well-being. Debswana also emphasizes the importance of labor rights, health, and safety within its supply chain, ensuring a safe and fair working environment for all stakeholders.
Lastly, Debswana demonstrates sound governance practices in its procurement and supply chain management. The company operates with transparency, accountability, and ethical integrity. By adhering to strict ethical standards and promoting transparency throughout the supply chain, Debswana builds trust with its stakeholders and mitigates the risks associated with unethical practices. Additionally, the company continuously assesses and monitors its supply chain processes, integrating feedback and adopting best practices to enhance governance and operational efficiency.
Overall, Debswana's approach to procurement and supply chain sustainability aligns with ESG principles, demonstrating its commitment to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and strong governance practices.
It can be difficult to predict the future for any segment of the mining industry, but growth in demand for Botswana’s diamond mining industry may be the only bright spot to come from the chaos currently being experienced by the war in Ukraine. Before the invasion, Botswana’s Ministry of Mineral Resources forecasted a solid year that would bring the country back to near- pre-pandemic levels. Little could they have known that 2022 would smash all sales records for the company.
That had another consequence: It gave the government more leverage in its negotiations with The Government of the Republic of Botswana and the De Beers Group announcing a preliminary agreement for a 10-year sales agreement, securing the supply of Debswana's rough diamond production until 2033. Alongside this, the parties have also agreed to extend the Debswana mining licensing deal for an additional 25 years, extending it until 2054. In a joint statement, the agreement is highlighted as a catalyst for job creation, with the potential to generate tens of thousands of new jobs in Botswana. The focus will be on expanding the diamond industry within Botswana and fostering the growth of knowledge-based sectors, ultimately contributing to the development of a diversified and robust economy.
“The transformational new agreement between the Botswana Government and De Beers reflects the aspirations of the people of Botswana, propels both Botswana and De Beers forward, and underpins the future of their Debswana joint venture through long-term investment,” the two parties said in a joint statement released by De Beers
This could be Debswana’s greatest legacy: Providing a small country with a population of less than 3 million people with the confidence to be world leaders. To maintain this status, it recognizes that it needs to adapt its strategies for successful and holistic ESG integration. This begins with making its supply chain more digital, something it achieves under the Debswana 2024 Strategic pillar of Innovation and Digital Transformation. Things keep moving along at Debswana, and the diamond is shining brighter than ever.
- DEBSWANA 2023- BE AFRICA.pdf