Embee Diamonds in Prince Albert has partnered with African Diamonds for Development (ADFD) to bring precious stones to the international market in an ethical way.
ADFD, a Calgary-based, is several weeks away from starting production in the Kasai-Oriental province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Once production begins, rough stones will be brought to Prince Albert where they will be cut and polished.
There are several reasons why ADFD is bringing their uncut diamonds to Prince Albert, said president and chief operating officer Mario Molina, including an expandable facility and a desire to keep production in Canada.
However, the big draw is Michael Botha, Embee Diamond’s master diamond cutter, “Michael’s expert cutting and experience within the industry, for us, made it a no-brainer,” said Molina.
Botha is well-known in the diamond community for his Sirius Star design, which will be used to shape the rough stones from the Congo.
However, it was more than just Botha’s skill that made him desirable to the ADFD, “His vision of the industry and where he wants to be able to take it, for us, was very in line with what we want to do as well,” said Botha.
What they want to do is overhaul the way mining companies do business in Africa.
According to ADFD’s Executive Summary, the 2011 United Nations Human Development Report rated the DRC as the poorest nation in the world despite the country’s massive amounts of untapped mineral resources like diamonds, gold, cobalt and copper.
The ADFA plans to account for this inequality through an unprecedented profit sharing program.
Sixty per cent of the money they make through their mining operations will go towards developing the impoverished country and improving its mining industry.
Some of that money will go towards building schools, housing, infrastructure and water treatment facilities.
Other funds will be put towards a ‘mining cooperative’ that will hopefully modernize the Congolese industry and improve conditions for local ‘Artisan’ miners. If all goes to plan, local miners will be able to access better tools and vehicles, operate more safely and most importantly, get fair market value for their stones.
Because of the money-making potential of AFDA’s proposed mines, the impact on the DRC could be enormous. Once production gets rolling, one estimate puts the company’s monthly gross income at $105 million.
“For us to be able to take that $105 million and we’re giving back 60 per cent of it to the Congolese people and development, that’s massive impact, we’re not talking about a school every couple of months, we’re talking massive impact, like providing water to five million people,” said vice-president of investor relations, Michele Matteazzi.
This morally driven mining operation wouldn’t have been possible without a decorated Canadian Military Veteran from Regina.
“I came up with the idea for this after living and working in Africa since 1996 and seeing the huge riches coming out and it not being showed to the people,” and David Schaffer, ADFA’s chief executive officer.
“I’ve brought all this together over the last two years, but it has taken me 14 years in Africa to get all the connections, everybody lined up and to bring the team together,” he continued.
Now that mining licenses have been secured, an operations base is almost complete, and production is just weeks away, the challenge will be to maintain “100 per cent transparency, so you know when you buy a diamond from us, it went to build a school, it went to help a hospital or send water filtration units into the jungle,” said Schaffer.
Schaffer’s specialty is river-dredging, a form of mining that could be especially lucrative in the Kasai-Oriental province, where it has never been done, “There is absolutely nobody in the river, nobody’s ever mined the river, its virgin,” he said.
Nobody can know for sure exactly how much ADFD will get out of the river, but Schaffer is optimistic,
“We have been given carte-blanche and that means we get to pick whatever we want and go after it, because we’re splitting it with the people.”
On twitter: @_seanleslie
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