Gem Diamonds to supply water to Kalahari bushmen fighting for residence rights in game reserve

Mmegi Online reports London-listed Gem Diamonds said in a statement on Monday that it will drill four boreholes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in partnership with VOX United, a non-governmental organisation to provide the bushmen or Basarwa living in the reserve with water.

The government of Botswana is locked in a bitter battle with the minority Basarwa over the Basarwa's residence in the CKGR. The government accuses the Basarwa of depleting the park's natural resources, while the Basarwa say that the government is violating their rights by trying to relocate them and that their impact on the environment is negligible.

Gem Diamonds is constructing an underground diamond mine at Gope in the CKGR after it was awarded a mining licence by the Botswana government earlier this year. The company acquired Gope Exploration Company from De Beers in 2007 for some $34m.

The press release states:

The borehole drilling programme follows discussions and consultations with the local communities and will be conducted in two phases. Phase One will begin with the drilling of the first borehole, at Mothemelo, in early July 2011, and will be followed by Metsimanong, Molapo and Gope.

The borehole drilling programme is a part of Gem Diamonds' continual corporate social responsibility and sustainability programme aimed at the development of a lasting positive legacy for project-affected communities through regular, sustained and participative communication and collaboration. The programme will also benefit the local ecosystem as it will provide multiple sources of water at the various CKGR settlements to prevent the concentration of people around a single water source.

Clifford Elphick, the CEO of Gem Diamonds, commented: "We are pleased to announce that Gem Diamonds is assisting with the borehole drilling programme. Gem Diamonds remains committed to implementing sustainable solutions to the environmental and community-related issues in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and embraces the opportunity to continue our work with the local communities and other interested parties to ensure that the benefits of the Gope Diamond mine are realised for the community as a whole."

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