By Tinashe Kairiza
Zimbabwe conducted a diamond auction sale this month, as production of the precious stones gradually recovers after slumping to an all-time low of less than two million carats from peak levels of 12 million carats, businessdigest can reveal.
Last year, Zimbabwe did not auction the mineral, but stockpiled its rough stones in the aftermath of a botched merger plan by then mines minister Walter Chidhakwa.
Diamond production is this year seen growing to 3,5 million carats.
Diamond production by the southern African country, which has been mired in controversy since the discovery of alluvial deposits in 2006 in the Eastern highlands province, is slowly recovering-after government kicked out all miners and took over mining operations.
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), an entity formed in 2016 after the amalgamation of all the diamond mining operations in Marange in the eastern province of Manicaland, is now the sole company extracting the precious stones in the area.
ZCDC, which was recapitalised to the tune of US$80 million by the country’s central bank was by last year only producing between 95 000 carats and 100 000 carats against a target of nearly 400 000 carats.
Zimbabwe can potentially earn as much as US$30 million every month from the projected production targets.
Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe acting MD Masimba Chandavengerwa said the country had auctioned part of its diamond stockpile this month after failing to conduct sales last year.
He said another auction sale would be held this month.
“The first auction was held this month; another one is due to be held this month,” said Chandavengerwa, adding that details surrounding all “diamond matters” would be disclosed by the mining minister during a press conference today.
When contacted for comment, Mines minister Winston Chitando said he would “give an update on the issue in the next coming few days”.
Last month, Chitando said government would soon unveil a “modus operandi which covers accountability” as part of efforts to foster transparency in the extraction of the precious stones
Shortly after disbanding the murky mining operations in Chiadzwa in 2016, Zimbabwe’s former longtime ruler Robert Mugabe suggested the country could have been prejudiced a staggering US$15 billion in potential revenue due to leakages blighting the sector.
Parliament has since opened a probe around the missing US$15 billion.
Following a recent visit this month to Botswana by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe is considering processing its gems in the neighbouring country-whose economy is largely supported by diamond extraction.
Following the discovery of the gems over a decade ago, Zimbabwe was reportedly sitting on deposits that could satisfy 25% of global demand.
But the southern African country has not yet registered any significant gain from the mineral-ever since commercial extraction commenced in 2008.