Africa-Press – Lesotho. A bitter fight pitting the government with local mines is looming over the imminent appointment of a diamond evaluator before the end of the year. The diamond evaluator will be responsible for rendering technical advice to the government and relevant industry stakeholders on valuations, pricing and market fluctuations of diamonds in accordance with the laws.
The government suspects that big local miners are double-dealers who do not fully declare accurate amounts in diamond sales and other necessary processes, resulting in revenue losses while the mines quietly rake in huge sums of money.
On the other hand, the mines are discontented that the government is contemplating to bring on board a diamond evaluator to, among others, oversee all the necessary transactions and other processes involving diamond sales as well as revenue allocations. This was announced by the Minister of Mining, Serialong Qoo, during a media briefing on Monday this year.
Lesotho is one of Africa’s significant diamond producers, hosting major diamond mines like Letšeng Diamond which is ran by Gem Diamonds, Kao Mine, operated by Namakwa Diamonds as well as Mothae Mine which is run by Lucapa Diamonds Mine and Liqhobong Mine operated by Firestone Diamonds.
Qoo said his ministry has been allocated a budget estimated at M25 million to cater for the appointment of the diamond evaluator. The allocation comes from the department of projects in the Ministry of Planning and Development.
“Yes, we suspect we are losing huge sums of money from the mining industry considering the way things are done at the moment. So what we are doing at the moment is to verify if we are indeed being swindled by the mines,” he said.
He was, however, quick to note that the mines are not happy with the development, adding that the government is ready for a fight because it is time for all transactions to be clear going forward.
“What is happening right now is that the mines provide us with all the information regarding recovery and sale of diamonds and we accept it without digging deeper into what they are saying.
“But the evaluator will certainly be able to go through all the processes and confirm that the government is getting what it deserves. We are going to fight with the mines over this issue because they do not want us to go that direction,” he added.
According to Qoo, the diamond evaluator should have long been engaged but the Ministry of Mining did not have enough in its budget to cater for such an appointment.
“But now we finally have the budget to fulfil this long-term goal,” he noted.
At the end of the day, he said, the government wants both polishing and cutting of diamonds to be done in the country in order to create more job opportunities for Basotho.
The ministry has meanwhile extended an amnesty to people in possession of illegal rough diamonds to allow them to declare the stones to the government. The amnesty is valid until September 31.
This is to allow people who initially doubted the process to also come forward and declare their diamonds for the government to sell them on their behalf.