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Diamond giant considers future in city

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Matika again committed the city council to reopening the road but there has been no progress at all in this regard

File Image: IOL

ALTHOUGH already only a fraction of what it was just three years ago, De Beers’ footprint in Kimberley might soon be a thing of the past.

Following rumours that the mining company was set to close its head office building in Stockdale Street, as well as its diamond sorting hub and training centre, De Beers said in a statement in response to enquiries regarding the future of the company in Kimberley that it was “currently going through a review of its business model”.

Senior communications manager, Jackie Mapiloko, added that De Beers “will inform its staff and stakeholders in the event of any changes to its current operating model”.

In May 2015, De Beers announced its intention to dispose of its Kimberley Mines as a going concern, reportedly, according to the CEO, Phillip Barton, to try extend the life of the operations under new ownership.

At the time, Kimberley Mines employed 353 people directly as employees and another 300 indirectly as contractors.

Barton stated at the time that De Beers’ other Kimberley interests, including its diamond sorting hub, Big Hole responsibilities and Stockdale Street as the registered head office, would remain unchanged.

Recently, however, there have been strong rumours in Kimberley that the Shared Services division, currently housed in the historic Stockdale Street head office building, as well as the training centre and the diamond sorting hub would be moved out of Kimberley to Johannesburg.

De Beers has been in Kimberley since it was established in 1888 and has mined the kimberlite pipes of the Bultfontein, De Beers, Dutoitspan, Kimberley and Wesselton mines.

It still has a strong legacy in the Diamond City but came under fire recently from the Sol Plaatje City Council for allegedly neglecting its responsibilities with regards to Bultfontein Road, which borders the Big Hole.

The road was closed by the city council in 2008 on the advice of studies commissioned by De Beers following fears about the stability of the walls of the excavation.

The closure not only affected nearby businesses but also resulted in heavy traffic being rerouted through Kimberley, severely damaging the city’s road network. While Bultfontein Road remains closed, it is currently being used as an informal taxi rank.

The Sol Plaatje City Council has, on numerous occasions, called for the road to be rehabilitated and reopened. A lack of funding, however, has resulted in calls for De Beers to step up to the plate to cover the costs of both stabilising the Big Hole, as well as rehabilitating not only Bultfontein Road but all other roads in the city damaged as a result of excessive traffic volumes and loads.

When he was elected mayor two years ago in 2016, Mangaliso Matika again committed the city council to reopening the road but there has been no progress at all in this regard.