Marange firms retrench 950

Marange diamond mining firms are retrenching workers and failing to meet salary obligations amid reports that the alluvial gems are fast-running out.

A diamond processing facility at Marange.
A diamond processing facility at Marange.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Mines, diamond output rose from 1,3 million carats in 2009 to 12 million carats in 2012 before decreasing to 11 million carats last year. Monthly production fell from 1 million carats in February 2013 to 775,132 carats in June 2013.

In his budget Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said diamond inflows had not contributed anything to the fiscus since July 2013. Government realized a mere $40 million from the diamond industry – a fraction of the budgeted sum of $300 million.

The 2014 budget projected output to increase to 12 million carats following the lifting of targeted sanctions on the Zimbabwe Mining Diamond Corporation by the European Union. One of the largest firms, Anjin, has retrenched at least 950 workers out of close to 1,800 employees since it started operations in 2010. The Chinese company is expected to lay off a further 190 of the remaining 845 workers by March. Of its seven processing plants, the company is only using four, and some of its dump trucks, excavators and front-end loaders are inactive.

Company director Munyaradzi Machacha had not responded to an e-mail by the time of going to press. But he told Mines Minister Chidhakwa, who toured Chiadzwa late last year, that the company had implemented these measures in order to remain viable.

Jinan, which opened its doors in July 2012, has retrenched over 30 of its contract workers citing viability challenges. The company has constantly been taken to court by its workers over unpaid salaries. According to court papers in possession of this paper, Jinan was first hauled before the Mutare Labour Court after it failed to pay workers August and September 2013 salaries. The matter was resolved when Jinan agreed to settle the backlog.

Last month, workers downed tools again after not being paid November and December salaries. Managing director Ni Jun could not be reached for comment, but worker’s committee chair, Francis Matinyare, said staff were afraid that the company was rounding up operations in a bid to fold.

“We strongly believe that the company is rounding up its operations in a move to close shop. One of the conglomerate mines has since been closed. Also we understand that the company plans to operate just one mine instead of the present five,” he said. “This will affect four-fifths of the workforce – almost 60 workers have been forced to resign.”

Human resources manager Ntombi Mlilo said the firm had been hit hard by financial difficulties late last year. The sector has been riddled with corruption and mal-administration, prompting Chidhakwa to dissolve the ZMDC board – the sole concession holder of the Chiadzwa gems, and order an audit at the government-owned Marange Resources amid reports that the parastatal prejudiced the government of undisclosed millions of dollars.

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