Murowa engages govt on diamond ban

MUROWA Diamonds has engaged government to urgently reverse an umbrella ban on diamond exports but will still embark on a US$300 million expansion programme, Managing Director Niels Kristensen says.

Mines minister Obert Mpofu recently announced a ban on all diamond exports until gems from its controversial Marange fields are certified under the Kimberley Process.
Kristensen says his company is engaging government to ensure the ban does not affect the company’s operations.
“We are disappointed that we have been dragged into the issues in the east of the country, which are far removed and having nothing to do with us,” said Kristensen on the sidelines of the 71st Chamber of Mines Annual General Meeting in Victoria Falls.
”We are engaging the government to resolve the issue as soon as possible before it starts affecting our operations, our workers and our community.” 
Kristensen says the mine is set to embark on a feasibility study to lift output upwards of 700% and create more employment.
“Expansion will increase production by six to seven times and double the number of jobs,” he said “Production will increase to 1,8 million of high quality carats a year which will be predominantly gem.”
Kristensen said they will soon present their expansion plans to shareholders for approval. Rio Tinto plc has a 78% shareholding while RioZim owns the remaining 22%.
He said the expansion will begin once the company concludes consultations with various stakeholders, including government.
Kristensen expressed concern at the frequent power cuts that were affecting the mine’s operations. 
“We have had challenges of power just like every other sector. Although we have made back-up plans, it is very expensive and it is affecting our viability,” he said. “We are affected by power cuts up to five times a day. The country has to sort out its power problems.”
He said last year’s production was severely affected by low diamond prices due to the global recession.
Kristensen is optimistic production will be up this year due to the firming of the mineral’s price. The increase in the price, he said, is attributed to increasing demand for the mineral in countries such as China and India.
He, however, declined to give figures of how much they expected to produce this year. 
He said despite posting a loss last year, Murowa still managed to commission a new dense medium separation plant as well as a new crushing and screening plant which would facilitate the breaking of harder ore.
Kristensen added that the diamond miner managed to build several school blocks in various wards within the local community as well as a new clinic. 
“We have expanded our footprint. These community programmes are important for us. We are doing this because it makes business sense. It is important for the community to see the benefits of the business,” he pointed out.
He said the mine was working towards fulfilling the government’s indigenisation policy through supporting local suppliers and employing Zimbabweans.
“Empowerment is about sharing the benefits of mining. 99% of our employees are local Zimbabweans. We also continue to support local suppliers and provide contracts to local companies,” he said
The mine produced 124 000 carats last year.

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