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May 21, 2018: A day to be alive!

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May 21, 2018 remains ineffaceable in the minds of employees of Debswana in the processing and sorting chain of Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines.

 It is an historic day the employees’ live to cherish all their lives for they discovered an unprecedented discovery of a blue diamond from Orapa Mine on the date.

While it is a norm that managers are mostly the only ones that enjoy the limelight and praises when their offices posit successes, BOPA undertook an unorthodox step to accord those down in the perking order a platform to share firsthand their encounter with a rare, magnificent Okavango Blue diamond exactly a year ago.

On May 15, BOPA news crew embarked upon a 220km trip from Serowe to Orapa in search of the faces which first set their eyes on the unbelievable spectacle on May 21, 2018.

Expectedly, those in processing and sorting of rough diamonds spoke in awe about the discovery of Okavango Blue diamond.

Upon arrival at the strictly guarded township of Orapa, we fulfilled the prerequisites of entrance before proceeding to the Debswana offices where we found Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines rough diamond sorter, 33-year-old Mr Monkgogi Chepete ready to share a remarkably beautiful story of May 21, 2018.

Clad in green protective clothing bearing Debswana logo and names, his names on the right of his chest, the Maunatlala native tells of a normal May 21, 2018 day at work before a historic discovery.

In fact, it did not occur to him that he may one day find his name in the history books of the ‘unusual rock.’

The day deserved no special mention save that an unusual stone was found and bundled with others in a usual, normal sorting routine at Completely Automated Recovery plant.

Nothing unusual was diarized because as it is their duty, they take note of every action they take. But the stone characteristics were noted because, though conspicuously different, it had to be done.

To Mr Chepete, beaming all smiles at every response, the diamond bore all characteristics of a normal diamond save for colour and somewhat oval shape.

Owing to lack of knowledge of rare diamonds like the Okavango Blue, Mr Chepete, upon discovering the conspicuous differences, treated the stone like any other rare gem mined at Orapa pit although with suspicions.

While busy sorting stones he realized that he could not play ignorance to the screaming ‘unusual’ colour.

Consequently, he summoned his supervisor, one 52 year old Mr Mosimanegape Gaogalalwe, who bore testimony to a magnificent rare find.

Still, like Mr Chepete, the Lerala born Mr Gaogalalwe’s excitement chords were not triggered.

It was a normal day: a May 21, 2018. It was simply inconceivable that Orapa Mine could yield a world beacon that beckons world diamond traders to the pacific Botswana.

The May 21, 2018 remains an historic and indelible date in their memories after a call from Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) inquiring about the rough, blue stone later.

To Mr Gaogalalwe the call sent shivers down his spine for he feared reprimand for not alerting those high up echelons of power in Orapa and the whole diamond processing chain about the exceptional gem.

However, the call allayed any fears and it dawned on the two gentlemen that the blue, 41.11 carat rough stone could be the source of excitement at DTCB.

Nonetheless, it never dawned to them that the diamond, that now weighs 20.46 carats after cutting and polishing, would attract world recognition as a rare find. In fact, it is reportedly the scarcest find in Botswana: the first of its kind.

The incredible discovery has seen both Messieurs Chepete and Gaogalalwe counting their luck. In fact, Mr Gaogalalwe was upbeat that he would retire from Debswana, in the next seven years, without a similar or even a discovery that surpasses Okavango Blue diamond. This is the source of his pride.

Mr Chepete and his supervisor had seen and touched the Okavango Blue, a rarity that many Botswana will only read and dream about.

In fact, when called to the unveiling of the diamond that reportedly sits at the very top of all-time historical blue diamond find, the 33-year-old Mr Chepete saw his popularity shooting rocket high.

It is for this reason that when quizzed to paint a picture of what went on in his head during the discovery of the blue, rough diamond at the Complete Automated Recovery Plant, Mr Chepete conceding to shock said, “Honestly, we never expected that stone to be this valuable and hence we sorted it with others and sent them to Jwaneng.”

The lack of shock and anticipation of a rare discovery, according to the sorter, were fuelled by the finding that the rough stone was within the parameters like other diamonds.

Had they known, Mr Gaogalalwe said, they could have packaged the oval, blue stone and sent it directly to DTCB without having to go via Jwaneng.

In fact, Gaogalalwe said that the jubilation around the find could have started in Orapa, of course after informing the OLDM management of their startling discovery.

On a daily basis, the sorter told BOPA that high vigilance was a prerequisite of his vocation because it was from sorting that an end product was gotten.

Extra care too should be exercised such that no damage to the stones was caused. Mr Chepete also warned against mixing the soils and or rocks saying such could earn one a ‘pack your bags and go home’ solemn instruction.

The excitement of the discovery has not only swept the sorters, but has spread even to plant number two shift coordinator Ms Pinkie Bome-Gilbert.

It is from plant number two that the rock bearing the now distinguished Okavango Blue diamond originated.

For Mr Chepete and his supervisor, Mr Gaogalalwe to go on their uniquely sensitive routine of sorting diamonds, without contamination, Ms Bome-Gilbert’s plant and others have to feed them with rocks.

“I was so excited when I heard about this diamond,” said Ms Bome-Gilbert who opined that had employees been knowledgeable about the different types of diamond, the sorters could have picked it from the onset.

Though she claims to have never known about the formation of the kind of diamond Okavango Blue is, Ms Bome-Gilbert was ecstatic that a diamond that through a plant under her supervision had put Botswana on the map of rare blue diamond discoveries.

After learning of the type of diamond it was they discovered, the plant two shift coordinator said that she went on a research as to how the diamond forms and the duration of formation she begun to fathom euphoria around the rare find. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Manowe Motsaathebe

Location : ORAPA

Event : Feature

Date : May 21 Tue,2019

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