Diamond output hits rock bottom

THE depletion of alluvial diamonds in Zimbabwe’s Marange mining area has hit production of gems hard with statistics showing a plunge in export revenue.

Fidelity Mhlanga

Figures from statistical agency, Zimstats, show that in January Zimbabwe exported industrial diamonds valued at US$14,8 million before receding to US$12,6m in February.

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The country experienced a boon in industrial diamond exports in March and April after firming to US$26,8m and US$24,2m.

There was a huge drop of industrial diamond exports to US$1,3m in May with experts attributing the fall to diamond companies taking positions in the wake of government’s move to consolidate diamond mines.

In June, industrial diamond exports surged to US$17,6m before retreating to US$9,6m the following month. Industrial diamond exports dropped to US$7,9m in the month of August before growing to US$11,8m by end of September. Non-industrial diamonds valued at US$497 000 only were exported in August. The country also exported unsorted diamonds worth US$1,6m, US$8,4m, US$440 964, US$2,3m, US$3,6m and US$1,2m from February to August respectively.

Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa last year announced the merging of diamond mining companies giving end of May as the deadline.

Mining experts say most diamond firms sold most gems in the month of March and April to exhaust their reserves in anticipation of the impending May consolidation deadline.

The depletion of alluvial diamonds has also worried government, prompting Chidhakwa to express doubt at a recent mining indaba whether the diamond sector was still in existence. He lambasted the four producers in Marange for not undertaking exploration before commencing the mining expeditions.

“I am not sure whether we have a diamond sector. As a mining company, you must have an idea on your mine’s lifespan and how to extend the life of a mine, but that did not happen and this is why we are in this situation,” Chidhakwa said.

Diamond experts say the fluctuations in diamond exports was prompted by the depletion of alluvial deposits which were easy to extract leaving the capital-intensive kimberlites

“Generally, diamond mines are struggling because (alluvial) diamonds have depleted. We don’t have funding and yet diamonds are becoming difficult to extract. The grades are very low, production is suffering .You need to produce more in order to sell more. The number of carats produced this year and last year is now down with less than half,” he said.

Government, which currently has 50% shareholding in diamond companies operating in Marange through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, wants all diamond mining firms in the country to be merged into one entity, the Zimbabwe Consolidation Diamond Corporation, to plug leakages and enhance transparency.

Seven mining companies operating in Chiadzwa are Mbada, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame, Jinan Mining, Kusena and Marange Resources.

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