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The Koidu diamond mine in Sierra Leone has created the foundation for a new diamond player – the Octéa Diamond Group – which plans to open more mines in the country in the near future.

The president of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, delivered a message at Octéa’s glittering launch event at the mine in July, acknowledging the role played by Octéa in nurturing the diamond sector in the country.

“Our country has been blessed by significant mineral wealth, but the way that we manage this wealth is vital to the future prosperity of the country and the upliftment of its people,” said Koroma.

Octéa’s progress to date “mirrors government’s commitment to true development partnership, in accordance with international best practice,” he said.

“We have entered a new economic era in which the private sector is playing a pivotal role, and we thank Octéa for its contribution.”

Octéa’s CEO, Jan Joubert, says that four wholly owned subsidiaries of the Octéa Diamond Group have been established: Octéa Mining, Octéa Diamonds, Octéa Services and the Octéa Foundation. The name Octéa was chosen to reflect the quality of the octahedral diamonds characteristic of the diamond deposits in Sierra Leone.

The group’s flagship Koidu diamond mine, located in Kono District some 330 km east of the capital Freetown, recently expanded production capacity with a 180 tph processing plant. The added facility will boost the mine’s diamond output from 10 000 to 45 000 carats per month during the third quarter of this year, effectively doubling diamond exports from Sierra Leone. The mine now employs 1 570 permanent staff, 89.8% of whom  are Sierra Leoneans.

“The spectacular quality of our diamonds, together with the positive impacts our operations are having on our local communities and the country, have attracted interest from leading retail jewellery chain Tiffany & Co, with whom we have entered into an exclusive off-take agreement,” says Joubert.

The Octéa Diamond Group is fully owned by BSG Resources, the diversified natural resource arm of the Beny Steinmetz Group of Companies (BSG), which also includes a foundation in its corporate structure. Since 2003, BSG has invested more than US$300 million (R2.46 billion) on the development of its operations, related infrastructure and social development projects in Sierra Leone.

Joubert adds: “These diamonds enable us to finance the development initiatives that are bringing so much good to the people of Kono and the country. Plans are being made to put the proceeds from increased diamond sales into extending the benefits of our development programmes to those in the wider Koidu and Kono communities. As we move forward with our development plans, we are committed to bringing more substantial change to the lives of the people of Sierra Leone.”

The Octéa Foundation will also leverage its philanthropic impact through linking with other organisations which share its vision for development.

At the launch event, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, highlighted the importance of mining for the future growth of Sierra Leone’s economy. He said that the country’s recent record growth rates are due largely to the mining industry and the contributions of companies like Octéa.

Paying tribute to the Koidu mine, he said: “What has been achieved here is indescribable and simply remarkable. It makes nothing of the inherent challenges that normally beset the operations of mining companies in the country, be it resource mobilisation or attracting the very best to come and work in Sierra Leone.

“If anything, it provides an apt demonstration of what can be achieved when you have a committed shareholder, a dedicated management team and a professional workforce. With this rare combination, an organisation can achieve wonders. And what Koidu Holdings [now Octéa Mining] has done with the Koidu kimberlite project [now Koidu diamond mine] is nothing short of that.”

Octéa Mining, the holder of the mining assets of the group, also includes Tonguma, which is achieving promising exploration results. It is situated just 60 km south of Koidu. Another exploration licence to the east of Koidu has been awarded to newly formed subsidiary, Boroma.

Joubert explains that Octéa is busy with the first phase of economic evaluation at Tonguma and will conclude a feasibility study in the first quarter of next year.

Apart from Koidu and Tonguma, the company is also pursuing other opportunities, with the aim of producing at least two million carats by 2018.

Operating in an environment where skills are in limited supply, the company has prioritised the training and development of human resources.

“In addition to being good corporate citizens and ensuring our shareholders a good return, we want to be the company to work for in Sierra Leone, so we pay special attention to our relationship with staff and suppliers,” said Joubert.

“This starts with good conditions of service, which create a secure and sustainable working environment, enhancing individual dignity and self upliftment. We then create opportunities for personal development, to stimulate individual growth through training and development programmes. The bond between the company and the individual goes beyond a written contract. Employees wear their uniform and ID with pride, and have a sense of belonging and commitment that pulls individuals into teams, teams into a company, and a company into a family.”

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The Kimbadu Resettlement Village at the Koidu Diamond Mine has clean pipe-borne water with tap stands

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Kono District, Tankora Chiefdom Paramount Chief Paul Saquee welcomed the guests to the Koidu Diamond Mine in Sierra Leone

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The Honourable Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources in Sierra Leone, Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, addressing the guests at the launch of the Octéa Diamond Company at the Koidu Diamond Mine in Sierra Leone in July

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Seen undertaking a launch day tour of the final recovery unit at the Koidu Diamond Mine were Jim Fernandez of Tiffany & Co; shareholder, Dr Beny Steinmetz and Robert Leitao of Rothschild with Jan Joubert, CEO of Octéa Diamond Company

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The 180tph plant commissioning

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The Koidu diamond mine employs 1 570 people with 89.8% are local Sierra Leoneans (End July 2012)

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Octéa Diamond Group CEO, Jan Joubert

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