Marange loopholes must be plugged

Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa recently announced that the government would bring sanity and viability to diamond mining in Marange by choosing only one company to partner it. From a commercial point of view, this makes sense.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

In southern Africa, this model has worked well in Botswana. At face value, it would also be sustainable in Zimbabwe. There is no strength in numbers, as past experience has shown us. Seven companies mined diamonds in one of the largest gem fields in the world, but hardly anything came out of it – at least as far as the Treasury was concerned. Mainstream extraction might provide the much-needed answer.

However, as a country, we are bound to continue singing the blues if the transition to the new diamond ownership and extraction model is not well handled. The first thing government should do is carry out a bona fide and systematic analysis of what went wrong when those mines operated in Marange. Why did the companies fail to remit revenue as projected? Why was there no transparency in the extraction and sale of the diamonds? Who were the culprits and what loopholes existed?

After that, government must hire reputable experts with proven track records to carry out a geological survey of the diamond reserves that we have, starting with Marange and spreading to other parts of the country that have been reported to be rich in mineral-bearing kimberlite. This will not only give us an idea of the amount of surface and underground diamonds that we have, despite the looting that has already taken place, but will inform government and its partners on which methods need to be adopted to mine the gems sustainably.

Third, there is need to embark on a thorough, transparent and professional exercise to determine the best company or conglomerate to partner government in mining the diamonds. In the past, companies have been awarded mining licences not on the basis of their capacity but, rather, on the grounds of who their owners knew or had bribed.

We need an all-inclusive process involving the mines ministry, captains of industry, national security, private consultants and other relevant public departments must be involved.

In order to boost transparency, the panel involved in choosing government’s partner must conduct its business publicly and publish the results at every stage. And all the firms who have been mining in Marange should be blacklisted because they have performed so dismally.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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