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India starts African diamond initiative

India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced it would establish systems allowing direct import of rough diamonds from Africa. The move comes in response to what the Ministry described as “the Africanisation of the diamonds processing industry". "India must buy rough and uncut diamonds directly from these and other African countries, Shri Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of State for Commerce, said in statement. Ramesh said in future India will find it difficult to source rough diamonds unless it demonstrates to African nations that it will collaborate actively in helping them move up the value chain and assist in value addition in these producing countries itself. “The Africanisation of the diamonds processing industry is not a threat to India, but a great opportunity which we must proactively embrace,” he said. Ramesh also said India’s is uniquely placed to respond to the challenge of building up human skills and human resources in Africa in different areas saying it should leverage this to build long term partnerships in diamonds as well. A delegation led by the Minister and senior representatives of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) will visit Namibia and Angola beginning March 26th to kick start the initiative. Ramesh said that in the next couple of months, he would be visiting other diamond producing countries like South Africa and Botswana as well.

Separately, India's Ministry of Mines has reportedly proposed to Parliament automatic lease to firms willing to invest in diamond and gold exploration projects in the next three years. According to the Times of India, the move is aimed at targeting foreign investment, since domestic miners were unwilling to put capital in such projects involving risks of not hitting the reserve. It said private miners came forward for reconnaissance permits, but only 1% qualified for mining stage. The proposed policy would be tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session, which begins on August 10. Citing the Minister of Mines Subbarami Reddy, the Times of India said De Beers, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have begun showing "serious interest" in exploration.

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