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October 16, 2013
Since their discovery
in 2006, Zimbabwe’s diamond deposits have been shrouded in
secrecy behind miles of barbed wire fencing, heavily guarded by
security forces, with local villagers forcibly removed and local
clinic records revealing an alarming number of patients suffering
from dog-bite wounds.
In May 2011, Mark van
Boschel of the Belgium-based World Diamond Centre, which facilitates
the trade of 84 percent of all rough diamonds and 50 percent of
polished gems, described the deposits as the largest in the world.
A recently unearthed document by the Working Group of Diamond Experts
indicates that the officially mined deposits are only a fraction
of the treasure that lies underground in Zimbabwe.
Vince Musewe, an economic
analyst, says of the mystery surrounding the deposits: “It
is extremely difficult to talk of our diamond deposits because there
is a tight lead on the subject. There could be a grand and strategic
political plan to keep the information confidential.”
Disclosing the true extent
of the reserves could torch instability and speculative tendencies
in the gem mining sector.
an economist and past Chief Executive Officer at the Zimbabwe National
Chamber of Commerce, told The Zimbabwean “It is confusing
why authorities are not talking about those reportedly vast diamond
deposits. Maybe they have secret plans and would rather treat the
issue of such mineral wealth with the strictest of confidence.
of looting of the diamonds by top ranking figures in government,
maybe they are busy parcelling out diamond fields among themselves
and their cronies.”
has been focused
on the Marange fields, where Anjin, Marange Resources, Mbada
Diamonds and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation are the
biggest producers of the gems.
Before official production
was approved by the government in 2006, the area had been a free
for all, with panners from across the country descending on Marange
to dig for the gems that were sold on the black market.
When the extent of the
deposits became apparent, the army, police and state security moved
in quickly to stem illegal extraction, unleashing wave of excessive
human rights abuses and killings of the panners by soldiers. As
a result, diamond sector activists campaigned to have Zimbabwe’s
gems declared “blood diamonds”.
The European Union immediately
placed a ban on the sale of the gems. This was lifted last month.
It is difficult to get
information from government departments; the Chamber of Mines passes
the responsibility for shedding light on diamond deposits to the
Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, whose officials in turn
pass the buck back to COMZ - or claim ignorance.
Sources say a report
compiled by the Working Group of Diamond Experts, that has been
kept under wraps, indicates that the Marange diamond deposits are
just a fraction of what Zimbabwe could be holding underground.
WGDE operates under the
Kimberly Process Certification Scheme and helps with research and
technical advice in KPCS activities, among them the international
transfer of diamond samples from exploration projects.
Reports released so far
indicate that the deposits account for about a quarter of world
reserves, but the WGDE map shows that they are actually well beyond
that. The existing reports are mostly based on surveys that have
been done in the Marange fields. But the document that WGDE compiled
after visiting the country between August 31 and September 4 2010
shows that this area is far outstripped by deposits in other parts
of the country.
WGDE partly based its
report on information that it obtained from the government, the
Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in particular, and Geological
Survey Department of Zimbabwe.
Despite the deposits
indicated by WGDE, diamond production is taking place at only two
locations - the Marange fields, measuring about 71,000 hectares,
and Murowa Mine in the Midlands. Mining operations have taken place
in fits and starts at River Ranch, located close to Zimbabwe’s
border with South Africa and shrouded in mystery because of ownership
According to a WGDE map
Kimberlites, the diamond bearing rocks, are found in bigger stretches
than Marange in numerous regions across the country, with the greatest
concentration being in southern Zimbabwe. The biggest deposits are
in the Rutenga, Chiredzi and Zvishavane districts in Masvingo and
Midlands provinces. Large deposits also exist in Gwanda, Kariba,
Victoria Falls and close to Harare.
The concentration could
be more than five times the diamonds in the Marange fields, but
the map does not show how deep the deposits lie.
Recent reports have warned
that surface diamonds are getting depleted, leaving miners with
the only option of underground mining, which is more sophisticated
and expensive. That diamond mining has so far been mostly confined
to Marange could indicate that the deposits there exist close to
the surface, making it easy to extract them through panning by artisanal
miners and open cast operators.
There were reports in
the past that diamonds had been discovered in the Seke and Beatrice
districts near Harare, but mystery surrounds plans to mine the gems
in those areas.
Similarly, the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe, in the mid-2000s, extracted some diamonds at a
farm near Gweru, but was forced to shut down because it had not
followed proper procedures. It is not known what will happen to
the deposits in that area.
Even though there are
vast deposits of the diamonds in Marange, that has not been matched
by revenue flowing into national coffers, amid allegations that
the gems are being siphoned out of the country and being diverted
to fund private and political projects.
Leaked documents show
that the security services are heavily involved in smuggling the
gems to Angola, Lebanon and China. Many suitors from as far afield
as Russia, Lebanon and Belgium, together with local aspirants and
others from several African and Asian countries, are waiting in
The former Chairman at
ZMDC, Goodwills Masimirembwa, in an interview with The Zimbabwean
earlier this year, acknowledged that there were about 300 applications
for diamond mining permits yet to be processed.
“We are sitting
on piles and piles of applications for mining concessions, and that
shows how much attention is on our diamonds,” he said.
Economic analyst Eric
Bloch cautioned that the gems were receiving too much attention,
describing them as largely “industrial” and therefore
of low quality.
“People are seized
with the diamonds, forgetting that we have a rich list of other
high quality minerals that are vital for economic recovery, among
them platinum. We need to look beyond the diamonds,” Bloch
reserves are reputed to be the second largest in the world, while
the country also boasts large deposits of gold, coal, copper and
The new Finance Minister,
Patrick Chinamasa, recently acknowledged that Zimbabwe was seeking
assistance from the African Development Bank to mortgage its mineral
resources to revive the economy.
“We are thirsty
when we are in the middle of a pool of water. We have vast mineral
resources. We should be able to use those resources to unlock access
to capital, which we can use to develop our country and I believe
the AfDB has that expertise,” said Chinamasa.
But analysts say mortgaging
the vast mineral resources would short-change the economy as they
would be undervalued. Museve advocated a system where they would
be auctioned, to ensure a proper valuation.
“We can revive
the local currency, for instance, by pegging the Zimbabwean dollar
against the diamond. Mortgaging would put us at ransom,” he
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