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Smaller-scale extractors maximise local proficiency

Article - April 3, 2014
Diamond extraction companies such as Chitotolo are working in areas economically unviable for bigger producers and ensuring impressive financial and social results
Angola’s mission to explore and profit from its underground minerals has inevitably attracted large-scale operators. However, one organisation is managing to dig out financial rewards from smaller plots that also benefit the local community. 
Chitotolo is focused on diamond mining with as little environmental damage as possible, while investing in local infrastructure and personnel to make a positive social impact. The firm currently operates in Cambulo, as well as in North Luanda, where the stones are reputed to have the highest value. It is also embracing so-called craft producers on smaller exploration sites that have proven to be unviable for larger companies.
“These areas are not considered cost-effective to industrial production therefore we are granting those areas to our crafters,” explains Wola N’toni-a-Mambu, Chairman of the Management Board of Chitololo. 
As a partnership between the state-owned operator Endiama, along with ITM and Lumanhe Lda, the company has focused its expertise on higher value stones and more bespoke exploration and extraction operations.
“Our mining activity has been carefully carried out because we need to preserve the environment to guarantee the future of next generations,” he explains. “We need to work carefully, replace what has been taken from the environment, and create infrastructure in the production area.”
Like many production outfits in Angola, Chitotolo’s pros pects look set to improve over the coming years as the country expands its geological exploration. Angola has 18 provinces and there were diamonds detected in all of them, but only two are being explored, explains Mr N’toni-a-Mambu.
That potential could also benefit the local communities where Chitololo operates. The company has an extensive variety of social support services that run alongside its mining operations, many of which have been created to improve the lives of those working and living around the mine sites. 
One of the best known social schemes is the Fundaçao Brilhante, which provides support to local communities across a range of fields, from educational operations to environmental services. 
These types of projects are helping to create a long-term supply of skilled individuals to work in the facilities it operates. 
Mr N’toni-a-Mambu is confident that Angola can succeed in international markets, particularly because many diamond mines in the likes of Russia and Canada are cutting production as they move towards the natural end of their work cycles. 
“Countries that produce on an industrial level tend to decrease their production to extend the mine’s life. Some governments do not want to have the people that work in this sector unemployed, which is an inevitable consequence of closing the mines,” he says. 
Angola meanwhile has huge areas of untapped potential; 60% of its land is yet to be prospected. 
With investors returning to the country and local populations becoming increasingly skilled in the diamond extraction business, its potential is now close to being realised.