Kurotwi sets up US$25m diamond processing plant

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AFTER the government seized his diamond mining equipment, stock, and cash, effectively destroying his mining business on the charge he had prejudiced the state of US$2 billion worth of investment, former Core Mining and Mineral Resources director Lovemore Kurotwi has picked up the pieces.

Nkululeko Sibanda

In fact, he has embarked on yet another dream — this time around the setting up of a US$25 million diamond processing plant.

The soft-spoken miner said he had shifted his attention to the construction of a diamond centre while awaiting the government’s action on his seized property and cash.

“I have engaged with the minister of Finance (Professor Mthuli Ncube) on the prospects of us getting what was seized from us by former Mines minister Obert Mpofu,” Kurotwi said.

“We are still awaiting him since we made our representations to him.

“But there is no way we can sit and die because we are waiting for Ncube to come back to us.
“We will not run short of ideas. We have made a resolution that while we await that process to unravel, we shall be doing something on the sidelines and that is the construction of the diamond cutting and polishing centre in Harare.”

According to Kurotwi, Mpofu’s move cost his diamond enterprise a staggering US$160 million — an investment he said would have seen part of the proceeds being channeled towards the diamond centre.

“All in all, they took equipment, diamonds, and cash whose value we are confident is in the range
of US$160 million. We had, in our plans, an arrangement that would have seen us use US$25 million from that investment to set up that diamond centre,” he said.

Kurotwi said his company was now forced to raise the money from different sources, no mean feat as the country is reeling from liquidity and cash problems.

“We now have to rely on other sources to raise the money we need for the completion of the diamond centre. It’s not going to be easy but we are determined to see that centre up and running as soon as possible,” he said.

“We have constructed the diamond auction floors and they are complete. We now have to work on the other facets of the structure and we have to ensure that there is tight security because we are dealing with a delicate product which requires high degree of security.”

The centre is expected to house facilities where the cutting and polishing of diamonds would be done to add value to the gems.

There will also be jewellery production centres within the facility.

“The diamond centre is going to be the one-stop centre for everything. We expect it to be the hub of both the downstream and upstream industries,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has always been abuzz with the beneficiation of its minerals and we are going to provide that, at the same time creating jobs for our people.”

At the height of the diamond rush in Zimbabwe, Kurotwi was arrested, together with the former chief executive of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation Dominic Mubaiwa, on charges of prejudicing the state of US$2b in potential revenue.

This was after Mpofu was accused of allegedly demanding a US$10 million bribe to facilitate meetings and subsequently a deal that would have seen Core Mining’s partners, BSGR, pour money into the diamond mining venture.

Mpofu later accused the duo —Kurotwi and Mubaiwa — of having prejudiced the state of US$2 billion worth of investment. The matter went to court, but it ruled that there was no sufficient evidence to sustain the allegations raised by the state.

Under the deal, BSGR had pledged to provide US$2 billion worth of investment that would have seen the joint venture setting up infrastructure for the mining, cutting, and polishing of diamonds before they were sold to various markets throughout the world.

The deal, however, went sour after government failed to meet conditions that had been set by BSGR to guarantee the deal.

BSGR later denied any involvement in Zimbabwe’s diamonds.

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