ZMDC take over diamond venture after Chinese pullout

The state owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) has taken over management of the diamond mining joint venture Sino-Zimbabwe in Chiadzwa, after the Chinese investors pulled out in May last year.

Sino-Zimbabwe was among five companies controversially licensed to operate in Chiadzwa. But the company, a joint venture between ZMDC and Chinese investors, ran into problems when the Chinese alleged that the concession had no meaningful diamond resources to operate a viable mine.

During a trip by Mugabe to the area last year, the Chinese complained that the diamonds “are not viable for economic mining” and that the “diamond quality in the area is poor.” The Chinese asked to be given another claim but Mugabe told them to continue mining the claim until they had finished what was there.

The Chinese investors eventually left and the company was forced to lay off its workers before it later closed down. Operations have now resumed after the ZMDC took full control of the venture. ZMDC chairman Godwills Masimirembwa says he is confident the claim allocated to them was rich in diamonds.

Masimirembwa claimed the venture failed because: "They were looking strictly for alluvial diamonds yet the concession has conglomerates. These are diamonds embedded in rocks and mining them requires a lot of capital.” He said they were in the process of moving equipment on site in preparation for full scale mining.

Questions were immediately raised about the size and quality of the diamond deposits in the Marange area. SW Radio Africa spoke to Farai Maguwu from the Centre for Research and Development, which has been documenting human rights abuses in the Marange area.

“Not enough exploration has been done by the Zimbabwe government that’s why the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme asked the government to carry out an aero-magnetic survey to asses the value of the deposit,” Maguwu said.

Maguwu added that other independent assessments had put the value of the deposits at US$800 billion, representing almost 25 percent of worldwide deposits. He said after that assessment more diamond deposits had been found in Charleswood Estate in Chimanimani. “It is very clear what we know is less than what is actually there because more deposits are being discovered,” he said.

Asked what he made of the role of the ZMDC, Maguwu said the parastatal had ‘structural and governance issues’ which need to be resolved. “The institution is manipulated by politicians and this is why we have always had a problem of money not being remitted to the Treasury timeously and in terms of the required transparency and accountability,” he added.

Meanwhile the discovery of gold outside the city of Kwekwe and the subsequent gold rush has resulted in the arrest of dozens of panners. Also arrested was a policeman who was accused of loitering in the area with the intention of gold panning. Many police sent to protect the area have decided to join the panners.

The general lawlessness that has characterised Zimbabwe over the last 12 years came into sharp focus after ZANU PF officials muscled in on the discovery and declared that only loyal party supporters could mine there. ZANU PF held a rally, attended by hundreds of panners, and announced they had taken over. – SW Radio Africa

Post published in: Africa News

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