Former South African president Nelson Mandela today opened a 3.2 million rand Diamond Hub at De Beers’ Premier Mine, northeast of Pretoria, South Africa. The opening of the Hub was the first of a number of activities planned to mark and celebrate the Centenary of Premier Mine.
Speaking at the opening of the Diamond Hub, De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer said, “As far as we are aware the opening of this facility makes Premier Mine the only place in the world where diamonds are mined, cut and polished, and incorporated into locally-designed diamond jewelry pieces. It’s a world first and a wonderful example of economic empowerment and beneficiation of South Africa’s diamonds.”
The Diamond Hub houses two privately owned retail diamond jewelry outlets, a diamond cutting and polishing factory with a training facility as well as a design school. The Hub was facilitated through a partnership between Premier Mine and Diamond SA, a diamond cutting company and sightholder. It is one of several sustainable development and economic empowerment initiatives being supported by De Beers at the mine and in the Cullinan area.
Some 150 previously unemployed and mostly unskilled young women from the communities around Cullinan have been trained to cut and polish diamonds at the factory by Diamond SA, providing them with employment, skills and career opportunities for the future.
Isaac Nkwe, a skilled jewelry designer, manufacturer and entrepreneur, established Imfundiso – The Cullinan Jewelry School, a jewelry design and manufacturing school situated in the Hub. The school focuses on providing young people from the local communities with basic skills to design and manufacture jewelry. Trainees will either be able to study further, establish their own businesses or find employment within the trade. Although Imfundiso is only in its second year of operation, it boasts workshops in which students receive practical training in many aspects of jewelry manufacturing and a focus on design that has an African signature. The school has been established through financial and material assistance from Premier Mine and the De Beers Fund (the company’s social investment vehicle), and others. Premier Mine also continues to provide business management mentoring and training to this young entrepreneur and his students.
The Diamond Hub also forms part of the Cullinan tourism route – itself an element of the Gauteng ‘Blue IQ’ development initiative and a growing attraction for visitors interested in heritage and mining. The area is served by good quality restaurants and boasts some interesting wildlife conservation attractions and Boer War battle sites as well as museums reflecting the local history.