Diamond museum opens in Orapa

P14.2 million park and museum to boost Boteti economy

The late Dr Adrian Gale’s dream to establish a diamond museum in Orapa became a reality with the official opening of the historic building on Saturday.

Named after the former Orapa-Lethlhakane-Damtshaa Mine (OLDM) General Manager, who passed away in April 2015, the impressive building was officially opened by the outgoing President Ian Khama together with the Orapa Game Park Extension.

Back in 2011, Gale introduced the ‘Orapa Today, Boteti Tomorrow’ (OTBT) programme whose primary target was to make Orapa a great place to live and work.

The second objective was to build a sustainable alternative economy for the Boteti Sub District to ensure the region’s survival when diamonds eventually run out.

A proposal with a list of numerous initiatives was submitted to government in 2013; the museum is the first to be realised among the many schemes proposed by OTBT.

Speaking at the ceremony, Debswana Diamond Company Managing Director, Balisi Bonyongo revealed Dr Gale, whose wife was present to witnesses the historic day, initiated the idea during his tenure as GM.

He noted the opening of the Adrian Gale Diamond Museum came months after commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the discovery of kimberlite in Orapa.

During the commemoration, Debswana had reflected on the good diamonds can do, a point Bonyongo reiterated on Saturday.

“Diamonds have played a pivotal role in the development of Botswana,” he said, adding Orapa’s part had been rightfully recognised by having their first pilot plant commemorated on the back of the P20 bank note.

Bonyongo also highlighted Orapa’s excellent record for mining diamonds safely and responsibly.

“Responsible mining refers to mining that demonstrably respects and protects the interests of people and the environment within which we operate,” he explained, stressing that Debswana remained committed to building resilient communities and ensuring socio-economic sustainability beyond mining in the Boteti region.

For his part, President Khama also hailed the late GM and discoverers of the Orapa kimberlite in 1967. This includes Manfred Max, who jetted in from Australia with his wife to witness the opening of a one of a kind diamond museum.

Khama said the opening of the country’s first Diamond Museum marks an opportune moment to capture and consolidate the significant journey and milestones of diamond mining in Botswana.

“What better way to portray that story than through essential pieces of conservation such as a Museum and Game Park.

“The museum is also a legacy for future generations to appreciate the anchoring building blocks of this economy and country, which at independence ranked amongst the poorest in the world,” he said.

President Khama also paid tribute to the relationship between Botswana and De Beers, pointing out that it has been hailed internationally as a leading example of a successful Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

He said it was through the foresight of the country’s forefathers and De Beers that developing the industry was successful.

“Botswana has grown from being a primary producer with a maturing manufacturing sector into one of the world’s key rough diamond trading destinations,” he said.

He further said the P14.2 million expanded Game Park and Diamond Museum tourist package is complimented by the development of the Makgadikgadi Heritage Trail Map, which includes access roads and signage at Kaitshe escarpment, Makgaba fossils, MmaKgama ruins, Mokgalo wa ga Kgama and Mosu escarpment.

The President also revealed that a South Sua mini trail is being developed from Kaitshe via Kokonje Island to Sowa.

“Another mini trail, Ntwetwe pan, will be developed for bird and game viewing,” he added.

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