Facts on Botswana's lucrative diamond mining industry and info on agriculture in this desert country.



The largest industry in Botswana is diamond mining. The largest of the diamond mines is located towards the central part of the country and is called Orapa. Other mines are Letlhakane and Jwaneng.

Prospecting for diamonds in Botswana started in 1955 and this led to the discovery of these precious stones at Orapa in 1967 by Gavin Lamont.

The 1967 discovery was the first in 12 years of exploration that seemed viable to mine. There were other discoveries prior to this, only 1 in 200 proved viable.

Out of the seven major diamond pipe discoveries in 1967 Orapa was the second biggest in the world at 110 hectares. The biggest being a discovery in Tanzania at 146 hectares. It should also be
noted that three of the seven major pipes were discovered in Botswana.

An opencast mine, Orapa commenced operation on 1 July 1971,
producing 2,35 million carats a year of which 15% are gem and 85%
industrial diamonds.

The Letlhakane mine began production in 1977 at a rate of 300 000 carats a year and rose to 400 000 by 1980. The Letlhakane mine lies some 45km south-east of Orapa.

1977 saw a further discovery at Jwaneg. By January 1982 the mine was producing 3 million carats a year, rising to 4,5 million by 1985.

The combined diamond production of Botswana's three mines is around 9,5 million carats, a carat being 0,2 grams weight of a diamond.


De Beers operates all diamond-mining activities in the country under the name "Debswana", which stands for De Beers Botswana Mining Company.

Other mining activities include potash and copper/nickel. Gold was discovered in the late 1860's in the Northeast of the country.

The first white prospectors latched on to the fact that in the eastern part of Botswana there was a long gold mining history. These prospectors used ancient workings to help them locate gold.
Reports indicate that it was not uncommon to start a new shaft and find one of these ancient shafts running into it. It was also not uncommon to find all traces of gold removed along these
bygone tunnels. The man largely responsible for the Northern Light Gold and Exploration Company a forerunner to the Tati Company, Daniel Francis, has the second largest town in Botswana is named after him.

Gold mining in the area lasted from about 1869 to 1905. The last mine, "The Monarch" closing in 1964.

Coal reserves in Botswana are estimated at over 100 billion tons, this is almost twice the reserve of South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

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The third biggest industry in Botswana is Agriculture with +/- 80% of the people living in rural areas, farming livestock. Crops like maize, sorghum, millet and beans are also cultivated.

Cattle outnumber people three to one, and Botswana is renown for its good beef, most of which is exported.

Before the 1980's, numbers of cattle exceeded 3 million head - an average of 6 animals per sq. km., compared to 1.5 persons per sq. km.

Within the rural areas, cattle are considered to be the backbone of the nation, with one in two families owning cattle and referring to them as "Modimo o o nko e metsi" which translated 'means "God with a wet nose".

Within the rural communities of Botswana, one in every two families own cattle. The these people cattle are considered the backbone of the nation and are referred to as "Modimo o o nko e metsi" which translated means "A God with a wet nose".

Goats also play an important part in the economy and are considered as the poor people's cattle. Their numbers are estimated at over 1.7 million and goats are used for milk, occasional meat and income.

About 70% of all farmers keep goats at an average herd size of 22 animals.

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