Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) will this week receive $30 million worth of mining equipment from Belarus paving way for the start of conglomerate diamond mining at Chiadzwa.
Since diamonds were discovered in the area companies that were given concessions to mine were doing alluvial mining resulting in the depletion of the mineral and those companies had no equipment to do kimberlite mining.
Speaking after officially launching the $50 million funding for small-scale miners at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Exhibition Centre on Thursday, Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said he was satisfied with the progress at ZCDC and components of its strategic plans aimed at improving production at its Marange and Chiadzwa fields in Manicaland Province.
“You are aware that we are expecting equipment to come in from Belarus and that earth moving equipment is going to be in the country first week of May,” said Minister Chidhakwa.
The equipment was acquired under a local facility arranged by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and is earmarked for upgrading and re-designing mining operations.
It is part of several loans Zimbabwe is getting from Belarus to support productive sectors.
Minister Chidhakwa said ZCDC has also managed to raise $80 million following the presentation of its strategic plan to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa and the RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya, which would go towards acquiring more equipment and exploration activities.
“They (ZCDC) made presentations to the Minister of Finance (and Economic Development Chinamasa) and RBZ Governor Dr Mangudya). I am happy to report that because of that interaction ZCDC was able to put together a resource of $80 million.
The $80 million is going to be extended over a period of four to five months on primarily recapitalisation in terms of getting equipment that they need,” he said.
Minister Chidhakwa further said the earth moving equipment would be supported by processing of conglomerate diamonds.
Before the consolidation of the industry, companies were mostly doing alluvial mining.
Conglomerate diamonds are located deeper than the alluvial ones but have more value compared to the alluvial diamonds and need highly technological equipment to extract.Conglomerate diamonds are a rock consisting of individual stones (larger than sand) that have been cemented together and require highly mechanised machinery to extract.
Another type of the gems is the kimberlite, an igneous rock best known for sometimes containing diamonds and occurs in the earth’s crust in vertical structures known as kimberlite pipes.
The mining of conglomerate diamonds would see Zimbabwe matching other diamond producing countries in the region such as Botswana, Angola, South Africa and Namibia.
“We are hoping to support that earth moving equipment with processing equipment for conglomerates and exploration equipment. We need to have solid exploration equipment. The first aspect in any mining activity is exploration. You need to know what you have. You need to have a resource statement.
“That resource statement will tell you the size of the mine that you are going to build, the kind of equipment that you require and the amount of resource that you are going to spend. So, most of the $80 million is going to be devoted to exploration while some of it will be devoted to mining equipment,” said Minister Chidhakwa.
He said the Government would announce the number of diamond deposits in the country after completing exploration activities.
“You are aware we have been mining alluvial diamonds for the last few years. We believe that we now need to combine the little alluvial diamond resource with conglomerates. So the exploration that is taking place is to establish the conglomerate resource. There is also exploration that is taking place in respect of trying to identify kimberlite and see what happens but once those activities are complete we will be able to announce to the nation what we have,” said Minister Chidhakwa.
The Government through the ZCDC has set sights at expanding diamond exploration to other parts of Manicaland to include Mutasa and Mutambara.
Zimbabwe merged diamond mining companies previously operating in Chiadzwa diamond fields into ZCDC as Government moved in to ensure accountability.
The companies that used to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa include Mbada, Anjin, Marange Resources, Gye Nyame and Diamond Mining Corporation.
This triggered some court actions as some miners resisted eviction arguing the move was unlawful.
As a result, diamond production declined by 62 percent to 924 388 carats last year due to court cases filed by the evicted miners resisting Government’s decision to consolidate the sector.
The consolidation of the industry is expected to enhance transparency and accountability.
This will in turn improve revenue inflows from the gems and will go a long way in speeding Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.
Elsewhere in the region, Botswana and Namibia are significantly benefiting from diamond revenue. In Botswana, for instance, where on average about $3,2 billion worth of diamonds are produced annually, the revenues enable every child to receive free education up to the age of 13.
Recently ZCDC chief executive officer Dr Moris Mpofu was quoted as saying the company has stopped selling diamonds on rushed basis.
“Since last year when ZCDC was formed, we have been selling diamonds on rushed basis to raise working capital, but this was stopped in March 2017. RBZ has provided us with a working capital facility which allows us to continue producing diamonds.
ZCDC has also adopted a stock accumulation policy from RBZ and the Government which allows us to build and accumulate diamond stocks which we will tender at the right time, to the right bidder and at the right price,” said Dr Mpofu