28 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Marange Firms Ask for Help As Diamonds Dry Up

Diamond mining firms in the Marange region have turned to the government for help, with the alluvial deposits that caused a diamond rush in 2008 beginning to dry up.

According to the Financial Gazette, the companies are "haemorrhaging owing to the decline in output," and have asked the ZANU PF administration to "urgently consider making available additional claims to keep them viable."

The viability of the Chiadzwa diamond fields has been increasingly in doubt, with the alluvial deposits beginning to yield less and less in the way of profitable diamonds. The situation resulted last year in some firms retrenching workers, citing 'viability' challenges.

A Bloomberg news report in November quoted an official from the Chinese run Anjin firm, which announced that 190 workers (almost a quarter of its workforce) were being dismissed. Director Munyaradzi Machacha was quoted as saying that a fall in diamond prices was the main reason, along with a move from alluvial to underground mining.

That news followed the decision by another Chinese run firm in Marange, Jinan Mining, which retrenched over 30 contract workers.

The seven firms in Marange have repeatedly warned that alluvial deposits are running low, and that extracting more diamonds would mean switching to the more expensive and more technical, hard-rock mining techniques. Their latest SOS to the government is the most recent sign of the problems there.

Meanwhile Deputy President Joice Mujuru has said she is "concerned" by the lack of revenue being generated by the diamond sector, an issue that has clouded the sector since 2008. Billions of dollars are thought to have gone 'missing' as a result of illicit sales, smuggling and corruption.

Observers have greeted Mujuru's 'concerns' with scepticism. The very wealthy Mujuru family has been implicated several times in shady deals involving natural resources in Zimbabwe and other countries. Mujuru's late husband Solomon, for example, was named in a damning report as being a key beneficiary of the corruption at Chiadzwa.

SW Radio Africa also revealed how Mujuru's daughter, Nyasha Del Campo, tried to set up a deal on behalf of her parents involving illegal gold from the DRC. She and her husband Pedro live in the Spanish capital Madrid and set up two companies there, allegedly with the help and financial support of the parents. The deal involved shipping about US$35 million worth of gold nuggets per month to Switzerland.

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