Shadowy Marange mine closes down

Aver Crow, a company that had set up base in the vast Marange diamond fields under unclear circumstances, has beaten a hasty retreat after its activities were exposed by this newspaper.

Reportedly run by senior army and police individuals, the firm started operations last May and claimed to be exploring for diamonds. But its workers and the local community accused it of mining and carting away the gems illegally.

Two weeks ago, The Zimbabwean exposed the mine, which was exploiting workers by making them operate for long hours for slave wages while housing them in temporary shelters and denying them medical support.

Aver Crow, according to sources, started packing up a week after the story was published. It accused its employees of selling out the owners and summarily dismissing them.

“Right now, only three workers are at the site to look after the remaining equipment. Most of the stuff that was used to mine has been removed to an unknown place after workers were told to disappear. The trucks, tents and drilling equipment have gone,” said a source.

The company employed 30 full-time workers and nine locals who crushed diamond ore with hammers and were paid $5 for 12-hour daily stints throughout the week. Last week the workers were seen along the Mutare-Masvingo highway with their belongings looking for transport home.

“The owners of Aver Crow, whom we have not seen up to date but sent an emissary to relay the message, accused us of leaking the story of the deplorable conditions at the mine to the media and were on a witch-hunt,” added the source.

Meanwhile, a burst sludge dam at Mbada Mine has forced the closure of a nearby school. The sludge flooded nearby homesteads and the school and blocked toilets. According to Melanie Chiponda, the CCDT National Coordinator, Mbada has not repaired the dam, and some of the sludge has gathered in trenches built by Diamond Mining Company.

“There are concerns around the health of children and villagers as the sludge could be poisonous,” said one of the villagers by phone. “We are also afraid that our children might drown in the trenches. We have had similar incidents in the past as DMC is taking long to cover the trenches.”

Mbada and DMC could not be reached for comments.

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