De Beers backtracks on denial of tribal peoples' rights

De Beers has this week been backpedalling fast on its refusal to recognise indigenous rights in southern Africa.

De Beers told Survival International in October 2002 that it did not have a policy on indigenous peoples' rights in southern Africa because such a policy would 'head down the path' to 'apartheid'.

Representatives of De Beers attending a presentation by Survival this week to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Botswana denied the October 2002 statement. Also this week, company Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, asked by Canadian radio whether it was true that De Beers did not support indigenous rights in Africa, said, 'I find that quite amusing,' and suggested the company was working on a policy.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'De Beers is decades behind international thinking on the rights of tribal peoples. It is not acceptable to pretend they do not exist. Mining company Rio Tinto, for example, recently promised not to mine on the land of the Mirrar Aborigines in Australia without their consent.'

De Beers and its subsidiaries own diamond exploration concessions and licences on the ancestral land of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in Botswana. The Bushmen were evicted from their land in 2002 and forced to live in bleak resettlement centres where they are reduced to beggars, alcoholics and prostitutes.

For further information, please contact Miriam Ross at Survival International on: +44 20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

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