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Govt extends amnesty for illegal diamond dealers to surrender gems

…second local diamond auction on the cards

Bereng Mpaki

THE Ministry of Mining has extended the amnesty for illegal diamond dealers to voluntarily hand over of all undocumented diamonds to 30 September 2021.

The extension of the deadline, which had expired at the end of March this year, was gazetted in the Precious Stones (Prevention of Illicit and Theft of Diamonds) (Amendment) Regulations, 2021 published last week.

All those who hand in their diamonds during the amnesty will not be questioned or prosecuted for the illegal possession of the precious stones.

Mining Principal Secretary (PS), Tšokolo Maina, said they extended the amnesty after realising that many people still possessed illegal diamonds and were not be able to meet the March deadline for handing them over to the government.

Advocate Maina said many dealers had continued to hold on to their undocumented diamonds despite an amnesty which facilitated the handover of the stones and the subsequent first local auction of surrendered stones on 30 May 2021.

He said some dealers had told them that they hung on their diamonds extension to see whether the government would fulfil its promises of handing over 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction to diamond dealers who had surrendered their stones.

“We have extended the diamond amnesty to 30 September this year,” Adv Maina said in a weekend interview with the Sunday Express.

“In the coming days, we will finalise a schedule to visit different parts of the country for the purpose of collecting all undocumented diamonds from dealers who choose to voluntarily hand them over.

“In the meantime, anybody who wishes to hand in their diamonds and has their own means of transport to Maseru is free to bring them to our offices.”

 

The inaugural May 2021 local diamond auction raked in M54 864, 55 from the sale of 164 diamonds that had been surrendered by their owners. These weighed just 18, 34 carats. Another M327 785, 55 was realised from the sale of 406 diamonds that were confiscated from dealers who had ignored the amnesty to voluntarily hand them over. The seized diamonds weighed a combined 209, 57 carats.

Seven diamond dealers who had surrendered their diamonds shared the M54 864, 55, while the M327 785, 55 went into the government coffers.

Adv Maina said they were likely to hold another diamond auction.

“Depending on how much stones we will collect, we will either hold another diamond auction or organise a private sale,” he said.

Parliament had in November 2020 approved the Precious Stones (Prevention of Illicit and Theft of Diamonds) Regulations of 2020 to allow for the surrender and declaration of diamonds whose holders do not have proper documentation. The amnesty period was for three months ending 31 January 2021. It was then extended to 31 March 2021.

The move is meant to clear all floating diamonds from the market ahead of opening up diamond mining to artisanal and small-scale miners in line with the government’s vision to open up the sector to local players.

Mining is currently dominated by large British, Australian and South African companies who are operating in partnership with the government.

Meanwhile, Adv Maina said plans were at an advanced stage to start issuing licences to small scale diamond miners.

“We are amending the Mines and Minerals Act 2005 to support artisanal mining. The bill is currently before the parliamentary portfolio on natural resources and they will present their report to parliament when it resumes sitting after the winter break,” Adv Maina said.

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