Canadian based Lucara Diamond Corporation earlier this week announced the successful sale of the historic 1,109 carat diamond, Lesedi La Rona for US$53 million to a London based British multinational jeweller.
The lucrative stone is the third-largest diamond ever found and was recovered from Karowe mine in Letlhakane in the Boteti District of Botswana in November 2015. Only the non-gem black Sergio and the gem-quality Cullinan are larger.
Reports from Lucara reveal that Lesedi La Rona was priced at US$47,777 per carat hence the US$53 million tag price which is equivalent to approximately over BWP 500 million. Laurence Graff of Graff Diamond was quoted by media reports as saying that his company was thrilled and honoured to become the new custodians of the stone. “The stone will tell us its story, it will dictate how it wants to be cut, and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties, this is a momentous day in my career, and I am privileged to be given the opportunity to honour the magnificent natural beauty of the Lesedi La Rona.”
President and Chief Executive of Lucara Diamonds, William Lamb observed that the discovery of the Lesedi La Rona was a company defining event. “It solidified the amazing potential and rareness of the diamonds recovered at the Karowe mine,” he said adding that his company took time to find a buyer who would take the diamond through its next stage of evolution.
After discovery the exact value of the Lesedi Larona could not be determined until it was decided how it will be cut and more details about its colour were known. Former diamond-mining geologist Phil Swinfen estimated based on other previous similar sales that the stone could be sold for $40–60 million adding that the process of selling and cutting the diamond would likely take years to complete. In May 2016, Sotheby’s announced in London that the Lesedi La Rona diamond would be offered in a stand-alone auction on 29 June 2016.
It was expected to sell for around $70 million. After closer examination, the diamond was presented at the auction as weighing 1,109 carats. At the public auction at Sotheby's on 29 June 2016, the highest bid for the diamond was $61 million. However, this bid fell short of the undisclosed reserve price and the stone was not sold. The bidding opened at $50 million and the auction lasted for less than 15 minutes.
Lukas Lundin, whose family is Lucara Diamond’s largest shareholder, noted that the commission arrangement with Sotheby’s meant the stone would have had to reach $150 million for the auctioneer to make a large profit. At the time, David Bennett of Sotheby’s had revealed it was the first time the company held an exclusive auction for one single object. It was preceded by the sale of three smaller rough diamonds. The stones were also from Lucara and the proceeds, $140,000, were donated to charity. The Constellation had been found the day after the Lesedi La Rona in the same section of the mine.
Lamb has exclaimed that the price paid was also an improvement on the highest bid received at the Sotheby’s auction in June 2016. He further noted that t Graff Diamonds is now the owner of the Lesedi La Rona as well as the 373 carat diamond, purchased earlier this year, which formed part of the original stone. “We are excited to follow these diamonds through the next stage of their journey,” Lamb was quoted as saying.
The Lesedi La Rona is a colourless/white type IIa diamond. It weighs 1,111 carats (222.2 g; 7.84 oz) and measures 65 mm × 56 mm × 40 mm (2.6 in × 2.2 in × 1.6 in). In comparison, the Cullinan, discovered in 1905 in South Africa, weighed 3,106.75 carats (621.350 g). The Lesedi La Rona was mined using Large Diamond Recovery ("LDR") XRT machines, and is the largest diamond recovered using machines for automated diamond sorting.
It is estimated to be over 2.5 billion years old. In the months after its discovery the diamond was exhibited in a world tour in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, and Antwerp, Belgium, a major centre of the world diamond trade.
THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO PRECIOUS STONES TRADE
The Diamond Industry is Botswana‘s largest economic sector contributing over 30 % to the country‘s GDP alone. Botswana is currently proposing an amendment to the Botswana Precious and Semi Precious Stones (Protection) Act, regarding the Botswana Government's right to purchase diamonds that are unusually large or have unusual features at market prices. If amended, the government will have the first option to buy ‘unusual’ diamond finds such as the historic Lesedi La Rona.
A recently filed draft bill to amend the Precious and Semi-Precious Stones Act contains a new clause that compels any producer that comes into possession of an unusual rough or uncut diamond to notify the minister of mines within 30 days, following which the government shall have the right of first refusal to the stone. “The price to be paid by government for a rough or uncut precious stone offered for sale by the producer shall be agreed between the parties in accordance with the current market price of the rough or uncut precious stone,” the bill states. The bill did not give a precise definition of “unusual”.
This move by Botswana is the latest in a series of similar measures by African countries such as Lesotho, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to exert tighter control on their mineral resources. With regards to this Chief minerals officer in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Moses Tshetlhane said that amendment of the law was motivated by recovery of some unusually large diamonds, namely: the Lesedi La Rona and Constellation.
Some of the amendments to the Act include stiffer penalties for illegal trade of diamonds, as well as false declarations of discovery of precious stones. Producers that make false declarations about the place they would have discovered a precious stone should also be liable to penalties prescribed by law for a crime of perjury, and all rights acquired by them in consequence of any such declaration shall lapse.
“Some of the key changes to the Act are to remove trade barriers and increase penalties to deter any potential illegal trade as well as improve facilitation in the sorting, valuing, aggregation and selling of rough diamonds. The Precious and Semi-Precious Stones Act is being amended to ensure that it stays relevant and applicable to the prevailing and ever changing environment in the diamond industry,” shared the Chief Minerals Officer.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.