Bushmen women.
Bushmen women. © Mark Hakansson/Survival

Since the Bushmen were forced off their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in 2002, the Botswana government has granted 112 mining licenses for mining companies to explore in the reserve. 16 licenses have been awarded for uranium exploration and 40 for coal.

It is just over seven years since the government evicted more than 600 Bushmen from the reserve, although it has always denied any connection between mining and the evictions.

Botswana’s Minister for Wildlife Kitso Mokaila says he supports mining in the reserve, saying ‘it has always been the policy of the government of Botswana that where there are minerals, they will be mined. Botswana has been built on the strength of mining. It will be a very good thing (to mine in the reserve).’

The Bushmen won the right to return to their land inside the reserve in a landmark ruling at Botswana’s High Court in 2006, where the judges recognized that the evictions had been ‘unlawful’ and ‘unconstitutional’. But the Botswana government is doing all it can to stop the Bushmen from going home, banning them from using a water borehole to get water inside the reserve, and stopping them from hunting for food. Meanwhile, any mines in the reserve will have to drill multiple boreholes to operate, and will create massive disruption to both the Bushmen and the wildlife.

Survival has always maintained that the Bushmen were evicted to open up the reserve for mining. It led a highly successful campaign against De Beers until the company sold its CKGR mining concession for $34 million to Gem Diamonds which has been pushing ahead with mining plans in the Bushman community of Gope.

Survival is campaigning against both Gem Diamonds and Graff Diamonds, which has a 9% stake in Gem. It has written to Victoria Beckham, Elizabeth Hurley and Naomi Campbell, who all appear on Graff’s website, asking them to stop wearing Graff diamonds until the Bushmen are able to return home freely, to use the water on their land and to hunt.

Survival’s Director, Stephen Corry, said today ‘It’s no coincidence that the Botswana government has issued more than a hundred exploration licenses inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve since they kicked the Bushmen out, or that they’re now doing all they can to keep the Bushmen off their land. The Bushmen have a right to be consulted about mining in the reserve under international law, but how can they have any meaningful discussions about the use of their land while the government is stopping them from living on it?’