Diamond Route

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The Diamond Route is a unique initiative that uses our landholding for biodiversity conservation purposes.

Launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, the Diamond Route is a biodiversity conservation, education and outreach initiative from De Beers, the Oppenheimer family and Ponahalo Investments- De Beers’ Black Economic Empowerment partner.

The Diamond Route grew out of De Beers’ century old practice of using its mining-licence landholdings for nature conservation purposes. Mining licence land holdings are always considerably larger than the total footprint of any mining operation.  We now actively manage roughly 6 hectares of land for biodiversity conservation purposes for every one used commercially. 

The Diamond Route comprises nine sites covering some 250,000 hectares and stretches from the deserts of Namaqualand on South Africa’s West coast to the Venetia Limpopo Reserve on South Africa’s northern border. These sites include:

  • The Ezemvelo Nature reserve near Johannesburg
  • Kimberley
  • Dronfield
  • The Rooiport Nature Reserve
  • Namaqualand
  • The Tswalu Kalahari Reserve near the Korannaberg Mountains
  • The Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve
  • Benfontein

Diamond Route sites are managed according to a shared holistic ecosystem conservation model.  In addition to its success in ecosystem conservation and restoration, the Diamond Route also supports many species conservation programs ranging from the big-5 (the black rhino), to the less well known (the black-footed cat), to the obscure (the Namaqua dwarf adder).

The Diamond Route runs a range of education and training programmes and has formed development partnerships with numerous local communities and organisations.

"The award is a fitting acknowledgement of the outstanding contribution the Oppenheimer family and De Beers are making to environmental conservation in our beautiful country. The award recognises those who strongly promote a culture of sustainable use and conservation of our natural heritage.

This project also highlights that fact that conservation is as much about people as it is about conserving nature for generations to come."

The judges of the 2011 Kudu Awards programme organised by the South African National Parks , The Diamond Route was the 2011 Overall Winner in Corporate Contribution to Conservation
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The Tswalu Kalahari Reserve on the Diamond Route. Credit to Erwin Niemand The lodge in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve on the Diamond Route.

“…conservation of the environment, which we have inherited as custodians, is not a subject of only specialist and activist interest; rather it is an imperative for society as a whole to hand on a less distressed situation than that we have caused."

Strilli Oppenheimer, Founding Member, Diamond Route

In 2010, the Diamond Route was winner of the overall sustainability category of the Nedbank Green Mining Awards, gaining particular recognition for the scale of public access.

In 2011, the Diamond Route was the Overall Winner in the Biodiversity category at the Enviropaedia Eco-Logic Award; the Bronze Winner in the Conservation and Biodiversity category at the International Green Awards; and the Overall Winner in the Corporate Contribution to Conservation category at the SANParks Kudu Awards.

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Elephants on the VNLR, a part of the Diamond Route. Credit to Erwin Niemand Elephants on the VNLR, a part of the Diamond Route in South Africa.

A vibrant wildlife

The Diamond Route is home to more than half of southern Africa’s bird species (500 species in total), including 40 endemic species and 69 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red Data List. Two properties are listed in the definitive Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa Directory.

Over 50 different mammal species make the Diamond Route their home, including the White Rhino, Wild Dog, Sable and Roan Antelope.

Social and cultural development

Cultural and heritage characteristics have been developed and preserved at each site, including restored buildings in the historic diamond-mining capital of Kimberley.

Several shared social development opportunities have been realised through the project, such as the Ezemvelo-Maharishi education programme. This promotes conservation-related education through the development of a rural eco-campus on the 4,500 ha Ezemvelo Reserve.