Angola State-owned diamond group Endiama is going to encourage the development of semi-industrial cooperatives in each and every province of the country to explore for diamonds.
This was stated by Endiama board member and group director of geology Luís Quitamba, Angolan news agency Angop reported. (The Angop report was used as the basis for a story by the Macauhub news agency, in which Quitamba’s name was rendered as Kitamba; the spelling Quitamba comes from the Endiama website.)
Endiama is an acronym for Empresa Nacional de prospecção, exploração, lapidação e comercialização de Diamantes de Angola, or the National Prospecting, Mining, Polishing and Trading Company of Angola. Currently, Angola produces some nine-million carats of diamonds a year. It is intended to increase this to 13.8-million carats a year by 2022.
Quitamba highlighted that 12 such cooperatives had already been formed – “all functioning” – in seven provinces. These cooperatives provide employment for more than 5 000 people, many of whom are former members of the country’s armed forces.
The aim of this recently introduced programme is to bring order to the country’s diamondiferous regions and bring small artisanal miners together so that they can undertake more effective prospecting for the precious stones. Currently, they employ basic tools such as shovels, picks and machetes, which make successful prospecting difficult and uncommon.
The cooperatives are, and can be, composed only of Angolan citizens, and have to meet a series of requirements. These include taking care of the exploration area, adhering to the norms of the Kimberley Process, not allowing foreigners to join them, and selling all diamonds found to Sodiam (Angola’s diamond trading company; its name is an acronym for the Sociedade de Comercialização de Diamantes and the company is a subsidiary of Endiama).
Separately, Endiama has been authorised to diversify its activities into niobium. The authorisation was signed by Geology and Mines Minister Francisco Queiroz, Macauhub reported. Exploration for the metal will take place in the southern province of Huíla and will actually be carried out by a company called Blue Mining (about which no details were provided; it seems very unlikely to be the same entity as the identically named European sustainable deep sea mining development consortium, which has no mining companies).
The two companies have formed a joint venture company which has been awarded a concession in the Quilenges area, encompassing 160 km2. Portuguese news agency Lusa reported that the initial investment in the project will be more than $20-million. This project has been permitted because of “the strategic interest which the mineral represents”, the Minister said.
Currently, nearly all the world’s niobium production comes from Brazil. The country holds almost all the world’s reserves of the metal, amounting to some 842-million tons. Niobium is rare and used in the production of high-strength low-alloy steels, in alloys for components of jet engines and rockets, and in more exotic applications such as in superconducting magnets.
Totally unrelated and at a separate event, Queiroz announced, during a visit to the city of Lubango, that Angola aimed to produce 357 000 m3 of ornamental stone over the five-year period 2017/21. This will be the result of the start of operations at nine new quarries, five of which started working early this month. This figure will represent an increase of nearly 66% on production for the previous five-year period. “The production of ornamental stones, which encompasses granite, marble, shale quartz and limestone, in the five-year period 2012/16, was 215.5 m3,” he stated.
Currently, Angola has 12 factories for the cutting, polishing and beneficiation of ornamental stone. Five of these are in the province of Huíla, three in Namibe, two in Luanda and one each in Benguela and Zaire.