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Diamond mine prospect raises Koalabata hopes

by Sunday Express
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makhomoBilly Ntaote

Berea — Chinese-owned Nan Jiang Lesotho Mining Resources (Pty) Ltd says it will soon begin prospecting for diamonds in Koalabata village, outside Maseru.

Matsoso Matsoso, the company’s administrator, said tests on soil samples taken from the area in July indicate the kimberlite (a rock known for containing diamonds) found in the Koalabata area to be worth mining.

Matsoso was speaking to the Sunday Express after a public gathering the company had with the Koalabata villagers on November 2. She explained the company is consulting local villagers on how to compensate communities that would be affected by the mine project.

Amongst the issues that the public gathering touched on include the effects of the mine operations on the villagers’ lives.

These include blasting, water pollution, noise pollution by stone crushers and loss of fields and crops.

“We have taken soil samples for testing right now, but while we are waiting for the sample results we have to work on other necessary requirements of setting up the mine. That is why we are holding the public consultations,” Matsoso said.

He said Nan Jiang was given permission to begin its work in the Koalabata area in February 2013.

The public gathering was meant to provide a platform for the prospecting company to interact with the community on how best they can preserve the nature and culture of the village as they prospect for diamonds.

“As a company our concern is the soil samples that we are waiting for right now, but already we are continuing with other processes because we have heard good news that the area is worthy prospecting for diamonds,” Matsoso said.

He said the public gathering was also meant to ensure the community knows about their presence as a mining company that would soon be prospecting for diamonds for two years.

Matsoso revealed the company would not only be prospecting in the Koalabata village but also in the Matsoku area in Mokhotlong.

He said the company had this week conducted a public gathering in the Matsoku area just like they did in Koalabata.

“As we speak I’m from Matsoku where we just had a similar gathering with the communities in the area who are going to be affected by the mine project,” he said.

He said Nan Jiang has already been given prospecting licences to start working in the two places.

Matsoso says environment protection initiatives are to be conducted all year round to establish which natural plants, animals and birds are going to be endangered by the mine projects.

Contacted for comment on the project the Berea constituency legislator, Matela Khojane, said he attended the public gathering last week Saturday and was impressed by the project.

Khojane said he sees the Nan Jiang prospecting as a positive development as it would create employment for local communities. He added that once operations become fully-fledged, his whole constituency would benefit.

He however, said it should be clear to Basotho that the Chinese-owned company is only conducting preliminary studies to determine whether there are diamonds in the kimberlite and if the area would have enough diamond deposits worth prospecting.

“If the project continues then we are expecting roads and water infrastructure in the Koalabata village and neighbouring villages.

“Again, one of the developments that this mine project should bring is rehabilitation of the old dilapidated Koalabata primary school as a form of giving back to the community,” Khojane said.

He also indicated there would not be many households to be displaced by the mine project as it is going to be located at an old site which used to be mined in the 1960s.

Koalabata local chief Makhomo Makoanyane said the main development that her villagers want from Nan Jiang is infrastructure development.

“We used to have white men who used to mine here, and I still remember the miner’s name. He ended up leaving the area for unknown reasons to us,” she said.

However, during the meeting the villagers agreed to form a committee that would ensure the best interests of the community are served while the miners extract their diamonds.

The community also want local communities to be considered for employment, when the mine starts operating.

Investigations by the Sunday Express have shown that prospecting started as early as 1975 and in the 1980s.

However, prospecting then did not bring any positive outcome as companies that conducted the prospecting left under unclear circumstances.

There is evidence that some villagers have for years been mining for diamonds and some even made a living from those diamonds.

Some villagers said they suspected past failures to kick-start meaningful mining operations was caused by the non-involvement of the villagers.

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