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3 posts from April 2014


Spring 2014 Issue III: Trip to the Jwaneng Diamond Mine




CIEE students often have the opportunity to experience many cultural aspects of life in Botswana. However, we don't want them to leave Botswana without the understanding of the important economic impact of diamonds on the economy.

Here's what's in this issue:

Road to the Mine
History of Debswana
Safety First! A Look Inside Jwaneng


By 5:30 in the morning, CIEE students, student volunteers and staff were on our way to the Jwaneng Diamond Mine.

IMG_2435After two and a half hours and a short nap, everyone was wide awake and excited to get into the mine.





Students waited in the bus at the gate while staff went in to collect the tickets and make sure everything was set up for the tour


The security was tight at the gate. There were cameras everywhere, as well as security guards that checked IDs. Anyone who wanted to enter the mine had to report to the security office and have prior clearance. After everyone received their tickets to get into the mine, we crossed over through the gate and got into our transport for the first part of the tour.

IMG_2442Nahara in front of the bus

We were welcomed into the beautiful foyer of the Public and Corporate Affairs building. The far wall shows photos of visitors and workers in the mine, as well as Debswana's 5 values: Be Passionate, Pull Together, Build Trust, Show We Care, and Shape the Future.



The 5 Debswana values

Lexy, Tarikwa, Dana and Mariana got coffee on their way into the board room for our talk on the history of mining operations in Botswana.




We were officially welcomed to the Jwaneng Mine around 9:00 by Mr. Allan Molefhe. He was very knowledgeable from his combined 9 years of experience, first at the headquarters in Gaborone and the last 3 years, at Jwaneng. He was well-versed in everything from the history of the company to the mechanical inner workings of every aspect of mining operations.

We learned that Debswana is a 50/50 partnership between De Beers and the Government of Botswana that began in 1968. Diamonds were discovered in Botswana in 1967 by geologists from De Beers, one year after Botswana received its independence from the United Kingdom. The first mines were founded in the northern part of Botswana, at Orapa in 1971 and Letlhakane in 1975. Diamonds were discovered in what would become the Jwaneng mine in 1972, but the mine was the last to be established, in 1978.



Official opening of the Jwaneng Mine on August 14, 1982. Photo from the Debswana web site at:







CIEE students and other visitors to the mine listening in on Mr. Molefhe's talk



The students were fascinated by the intricacies of the mine and its affect on the Botswana economy. Mr. Molefhe told us that the Jwaning Mine is the richest diamond mine in the world by value. Debswana produces more than 30 million carats a year (22% of the world's diamond output), and 60-70% of that comes from Jwaneng. In terms of the Botswana economy, diamonds produce 80% of foreign exports, 50% of government income and 30% of gross domestic product (GDP). The mine makes so much revenue that one month's profits are enough to pay for operations for an entire year.


 Adam reading the booklet that we were given, which explains a history of Debswana, the stages of mining and particulars of choosing the quality of the diamond;
Keely, Lily, Amanda, Alec, Mackenzie, Kirsten and Kathiana in the background


After Mr. Molefhe's talk, everyone began to put on the necessary safety equipment--hard hats, reflective vests, goggles, and steel-toed boots.

These safety precautions were absolutely necessary because our tour guides didn't want any guests to be injured while in the mine. Jwaneng Mine is one of the safest mines in the world, with one of the lowest disabling injury incident rates in Botswana.  They have achieved this because of the safety measures put into place. For instance, to improve visibility, the smaller trucks around the mine use elevated caution signs and drive 50 meters behind the larger trucks so that they do not get run over. In the case of any fatalities, the mine is shut down, which would mean a huge slash in revenue. Managers of the mine want to do everything they can to try to prevent that.



The mad dash to get the correct sizes!






Gaone (student volunteer) and Dana putting shoes on


The whole group in our safety garb!

After putting on the necessary clothing and protective gear, we headed out into the mine. The entire time, Mr. Molefhe was telling us about the process to extract the diamonds from the ground. Workers in the mine use dynamite to break up millions of tonnes of ore in order to locate the diamonds within the kimberlite. The tonnes of dirt are then moved to the primary crusher and crushed into small sized rocks. IMG_5450The blasting times are well publicized so that everyone knows to get out of the pit by a certain time. This focus on safety is a cornerstone of mine operations in all aspects.

Kenny (student volunteer) and CIEE students Nahara and Tarikwa with some of the processing plants in the background



 Lily, Adam and Kelly


After we all posed for pictures right after getting into the mine, we drove all around, getting a glimpse of all of the different buildings that are integral to the diamond extraction process. There were signs with safety tips throughout. We then made our way to the pit. The Jwaneng Mine is an open pit of 350 meters. Mr. Molefhe told us that the mine is expected to double in depth within the next 20 years.

Mine 2



The pit is absolutely massive, as shown. Photo taken from Debswana website,




Program Assistant Amelia Plant, student volunteers Kenny, Lusuire and Kuda, and CIEE students Kathiana, Keely, Katie, Kirsten, Kelly, Lily and Adam

Mr. Molefhe continued to tell us about the diamond extraction process. After going through the crusher, the resulting particles are moved into the Main Treatment Plant. Here, the dirt and clay particles are removed, and the resulting ore is screened and washed to separate the diamond particles from the waste. To maintain strict security, the final diamond recovery takes place in the Completely Automated Recovery Plant (CARP).  Then the diamonds are sorted, cleaned, weighed and packaged in the Fully Integrated Sorthouse (FISH). All of the employees that directly handle the diamonds are strip-searched every time they leave the facilities.

After this process, the diamonds are sent to the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) based in Gaborone. At this point, they are still rough stones and still need to be cut and polished. As the ability to mine the diamonds decreases in the next 30 years, Mr. Molefhe said that they are pursuing options to increase the diamond manufacturing sector in Botswana.

How do they transport hundreds of tonnes of ore, you may ask? Well, we were soon to find out.


These massive trucks cost $30 million--the wheels alone cost $25,000 and must be replaced every 6 months. We felt like we were in a Transformers film.


 Nahara, Anandi, Amanda, Kenny, Tarikwa and Lily got to pretend to drive the truck

 We had a great trip at the Jwaneng Diamond mine!

Until next time, sala sentle (stay well)!


Spring 2014 Issue II: Volunteering at Batlang Support Group



On Saturday, March 22nd, the CIEE Gaborone study center went out for its first volunteer day of the semester.

Here's what's in this issue:

Background About Batlang
Scenes From the Day
Moving Forward


Batlang logo


Batlang was founded in 2003 in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was affecting the residents of Mogoditshane, a village on the outskirts of Gaborone. It opened its doors as a feeding center for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). They expanded their services to include promoting abstinence and behavior change in schools, as well as providing, care, support and protection of those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.



Presently, they run a full-time pre-school with staff volunteers for over 60 children aged 2-6 years. Twice a week, they teach life skills at the Mogoditshane Community Junior Secondary School. Like most organizations, they have had funding challenges and are struggling to continue their programs. We decided to support them by feeding the children and the staff, cleaning the facilities and playing with the kids.


Students, staff and student volunteers arrived at Batlang Support Group at 9 am eager to get to work. First, we set everything up to cook in the kitchen and began cleaning outside while waiting for all of the children at Batlang to arrive.





Mariana and Katie helped Batlang staff to clean the yard and straighten up the garden





There was a lot to do! While some students began to clean the facilities, others began chopping carrots, green peppers and tomatoes for the chicken and beef stews.


CIEE students Anandi, Nahara and Kathiana

But no traditional setswana food meal is complete without salads! We prepared beet root salad, cole slaw and fried cabbage.




After cleaning outside, Katie and Mariana put their cooking skills to good use and chopped onions to be included in the stews, alongside CIEE volunteer Lusuire






IMG_0161Nahara, Anandi, Mariana and Katie peeled beet roots



 Left: Adam and Kathiana

Right: Kelly with CIEE Resident Director Basetsana Maposa

IMG_0144The beginnings of beef stew

While some CIEE students learned the finer aspects of traditional cooking, others kept the kids happy by playing with them and decorating 40 children ages 4-6 them with face paint! We brought books for the kids to color with and balls to play with, but there was so much going on that we didn't even need to use them. The children really enjoyed playing with the swings and playground outside.

IMG_0134Adam and Keely attracted many fans







Kirsten with a crowd of onlookers







Everyone set up tables and chairs for the children in preparation for the food service. At 1 pm, after a lot of hard work and laughs, the food was finally ready! Each plate was laden with spiced rice, beef or chicken stew, and a selection of the salads.


Adam and CIEE Program Assistant Tanya Phiri dished the food onto individual plates

Mariana, Nahara, Katie, Kirsten and Kathiana passed out food to children sitting inside and outside.



 After the satisfying meal, we washed the dishes, mopped and swept the building. Around 2 pm, parents and guardians came to pick up their children. We left Batlang Support Group at 2:30 pm, tired but full of smiles.


CIEE Gaborone is proud to give back to such a great organization, and to support Batlang's vision "to see healthy, educated, confident and well-integrated and secure children and their people who have been made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS in Mogoditshane." We believe that this is the beginning of a fruitful community partnership.

IMG_0194 Krista, Nahara, Anandi, Mariana and Tanya with a Batlang staff member


Keely and Kirsten with Batlang Staff and some very happy students


To learn more about how you may support Batlang Support Group, please e-mail


Nothing to Do But Laugh









Post by Kelly Hart from Clark University

The past two weeks I have had some challenging experiences that have been a bit frustrating. This is bound to happen during any study abroad experience, or any trip. And it can be difficult to deal with, but I like to take the time to laugh even during hard circumstances.

For example, some of my CIEE colleagues and I traveled together on Spring Break. At one point in our trip, we were traveling from Swakopmund, Namibia, back to Windhoek, Namibia. The night before we left, I was in charge of purchasing bus tickets back to Windhoek for us online. I bought the tickets on the Intercape website and headed out to enjoy the sunset.

Image1Kirsten and I enjoying the sunset in Swakopmund

The next day, we packed up, grabbed some coffee and muffins, and waited for the bus. The bus did not come. I checked the tickets and realized I had purchased tickets for the wrong day. Now we were panicking, and I felt awful. We found out, via word of mouth, that there are small vans that travel between Swakopmund and Windhoek every day. We caught a taxi to where they take off and we were on the bus and on our way in about 30 minutes. It was a cramped ride, but we were happy to be on our way. Once the van took off, I looked at my friend Kirsten and laughed. I laughed because there was nothing else to do. I laughed because we were all slammed into a tiny van, but just happy to be on our way. I laughed because a little girl kept staring at Kirsten. I laughed because the van was not quite suitable for Cameron. I laughed because it was the only thing left to do. In certain challenging and frustrating situations that are out of your control, the only thing left to do is laugh.

Image1Making light of our cramped situation

But laughing is not just for difficult situations; it’s for good situations too! This past week I got to celebrate my 21st birthday. There were a couple birthdays that occurred over spring break so we decided to go out to dinner to celebrate everyone’s birthday. We all went to a local Indian restaurant and had a delicious meal. I looked around the table and realized that so many great new friends surrounded me, and there was nothing left for me to do but laugh. I laughed because I was having a good time, I laughed because my friends were having a good time, I laughed because someone told a joke. I laughed...and then I had to go to the bathroom.  And then I may have laughed in the bathroom too.

Image1The beach at Swakopmund

Laughing is a powerful tool that can help you get through hard times, and help you enjoy the good times. A lot of times things will not go the way you think they will, but you have to remember to laugh at the situation, because often times, it is the only thing you can do.

BeachThe sunset in Swakopmund