Friday, November 18, 2011

Thirty-eight years ago a geologist looking for diamonds was digging around in some termite mounds in the bush about an hour from here.  Apparently termites tend to bring up things that get in their way when they are digging tunnels.  Things like diamonds.  Sure enough, the geologist found diamonds.  Today, it is the Jwaneng Diamond Mine, a joint venture between the government of Botswana and DeBeers.  Botswana was only eleven or twelve years old when it entered this agreement, and today a major portion of the GDP of the country comes from the mines.  It’s pretty impressive.  The open pit is, I believe the tour leader said, 1.5 km. across, and more than 300 km. deep.  You can probably google it to get accurate information, but it is a big hole.  They blast the rock and move it with giant trucks.  The old trucks could hold about 270 tons of rock, the newer ones, 300 tons.  

Here is the pit mine, 1.5 km across

When the diamonds were discovered, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world, on a per capita basis.  Today, it is one of the wealthiest countries, if not the wealthiest, per capita, in Africa.  What we hear in the states about corruption, greed and violence related to oil, copper, gold, and other natural resources, simply is not true here in Botswana.  It’s like a big family, and everyone gets taken care of.  This is an aside, butr recently we watched a program in which the President of Botswana, Ian Khama, was encouraging people to exercise for good health.  But instead of speaking from a podium, he was out with a group of police trainees, climbing up ropes and ladders, swinging across water hazards, jumping hurdles.  It was impressive.

We have some grandchildren who
would love to climb up here., where John and our friend Jan are sitting.

Back to the diamonds.  Security was pretty high.  We had to wear hardhats, vests and shoes, the shoes, apparently, because there was a chance, or appearance of chance, that a diamond could stick to the sole of someone’s shoes.  We did see a big pile of ore, but no sign of sparkle.  On the way out, we had to go through a double door system.  After entering door number one, you waited for a green light over one of two doors.  One door led to the parking area, the other to an inspection area.  John did not get routed to inspection, but several volunteers did, and so it took a while.

Big trucks.  Lots of them.  Each of these holds 320 T

Carol, by the way, stayed in Kanye for some much needed quiet time. And she has been challenged by motion sickness on some of our local bus rides.  And, in fact, she and John have both been to the open pit mine in Bisbee, Arizona, so it’s not like she missed the experience of a lifetime.  Plus for her, a day to sleep in, do some (very limited!) shopping in our host village of Kanye and eat lunch out were way more fun for her than being in the pictures you are now viewing. Peace Corps or no, some things never change!!

and more trucks
and cranes

The mine is surrounded by 70,000 acres of game reserve.  We didn’t see giraffes or rhinos, which are there, but we did see baboons, warthogs, and a variety of antelope, including an oryx, I think, a huge antelope with a sort of stripped coat and long, twisting horns.  We will have plenty of opportunity to see animals like that in the months ahead!

three scoops fills a truck.  and maybe a few diamonds

After visiting the mine, we stopped at a typical Botswanan restaurant.  finger lickin' good. Here are three of our volunteer friends, Marjorie, Rose and in the right back, Danielle.

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