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De Beers Battles Botswana Claims

LONDON — De Beers is stepping up the public-relations battle on two fronts. First, there are just three days to go before its joint venture De Beers LV opens its first flagship on Piccadilly. Meanwhile, the diamond-mining group is trying to put...

LONDON — De Beers is stepping up the public-relations battle on two fronts. First, there are just three days to go before its joint venture De Beers LV opens its first flagship on Piccadilly. Meanwhile, the diamond-mining group is trying to put to rest what it calls a myth.

De Beers, which last year formed a joint venture with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton for a retail company known as De Beers LV, issued a statement Monday insisting that diamonds are not the reason why the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve are being driven from their homes. A De Beers spokesman also denied a report in the Mail on Sunday that Iman, the face of De Beers LV, had quit the company and refused to do any promotional work until De Beers changed its mining practices.

As reported, De Beers has been locked in an ongoing debate with Survival International, a nongovernmental organization based here, over the issue of the Bushmen who are being relocated from the reserve to other parts of Botswana.

“De Beers fully accepts Survival International’s right to campaign responsibly on behalf of the Bushmen. What it cannot and will not accept is the persistent and erroneous claim linking De Beers and diamonds to the relocation of the Bushmen,” the company said in a statement.

The statement points to assertions by Glenys Kinnock, a member of the European Parliament, and Festus Mogae, the president of Botswana, that there is no connection between the two issues.

De Beers also said it has taken legal advice with regard to what it sees as Survival International’s “sustained campaign against it, and the dissemination to the media of untrue and misleading information damaging to De Beers.”

On Monday evening, Survival International fired back with a statement of its own. Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, said: “I can give De Beers this diamanté guarantee — the campaign will not end until the Bushmen’s land has been returned to them, for without it, they are doomed.” He added that the campaign would be “stepped up” until the Bushmen are back living on their land without fear of further harassment.

As reported in WWD on Nov. 5, Survival International maintains that De Beers not only holds the concession on a large diamond deposit in the reserve, but that it is prospecting for more.

De Beers has repeatedly said it has no presence at all in the Kalahari reserve. De Beers has two very small diamond mines in Botswana, which are not inside the reserve.