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Govt in mining diversification drive

 

Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana
Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana

Bereng Mpaki

THE government is working towards diversifying the mining sector beyond diamonds, with mineral exploration activities already underway.

According to Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana, while diamond mining remained the cash cow of Lesotho’s mining sector, the government was exploring the exploitation of other mineral resources for the country’s economic development.

The minister made the remark in Berea on Friday as he kick-started a countrywide roadshow to outline the government’s strategy for the mining industry as outlined in the Minerals and Mines Policy.

The policy provides a strategic direction for managing the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources to ensure the sector contributes to socio-economic development and transformation.

Addressing stakeholders that included community leaders such as area chiefs, the business community and government representatives among others, Mr Thotanyana said one of the key themes in the Minerals and Mines Policy was mineral exploration.

“Lesotho mostly depends on diamond mining. Our mining sector consists of 96 percent diamond mining while four percent comes from industrial minerals,” he said.

“One of the main themes of the Minerals and Mining Policy is to establish whether Lesotho has other minerals apart from diamonds. We also cannot neglect diamond mining which is very important for us.”

Mr Thotanyana said the government was intensifying efforts to explore other mineral resources.

“We have about three projects geared towards mineral exploration in the country. The first one is called Lesotho Geochemical Mapping in which we are looking for 23 elements from around the country. Geologists are travelling around the country collecting soil samples for testing,” he said.

“The other project is being undertaken in collaboration with the government of Japan, and it is called Remote Sensing. The project uses satellite technology from space, and they can pinpoint areas which have the potential of bearing mineral deposits. Our geologists then follow up by collecting soil samples in the identified areas.”

The minister added: “In the past two weeks, a delegation from our ministry visited the People’s Republic of China to sign an agreement with the government to send a team to help us with our mineral exploration activities.”

Mr Thotanyana said they had reason to believe there were a number of undiscovered mineral resources in the country including gold, titanium, rare earth metals and coal among others.

“We believe there are more mineral resources in this country than meets the eye, and our preliminary investigations indicate there are possibilities for the existence of gold, titanium, rare earth minerals and coals,” he said.

“These exploration efforts are necessary to determine the extent to which these minerals occur to determine if they can be mined. These initiatives are important in our quest as the government to fight hunger among the people.”

Turning to the diamond sector, the minister said Lesotho had the highest concentration of kimberlite intrusions than any other country.

“We have identified 405 places which have diamond-bearing ground. Every day, we discover new places. Lesotho is ranked number nine globally in the production of diamonds, and it is our dream that by 2020, we would have improved to number five,” he said.

“However, it must be clear the type of diamonds we produce are not measured in terms of quantity but on the quality. For example, you may find that one carat from elsewhere is sold for just over US$140 (about M2 039), but one carat from Lesotho is sold for over US$2 500 on average.”

 

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