Anjin Investments will resume diamond extraction in July after being controversially barred from operating in the resource-rich Chiadzwa area in 2016, amid revelations the government has also issued licences to two new players, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
The miner, alongside Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena, Gye Nyame and DTZ Ozgeo, were booted out of Chiadzwa three years ago by government, on allegations of prejudicing the state millions in diamond revenue through understating earnings and not declaring dividends.
Subsequently, government merged all concessions, except those held by Anjin Investments, to pave way for the formation of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), the only company currently extracting gems in Chiadzwa.
Last year, the Independent exclusively revealed that government had bowed down to pressure from China to restore Anjin's operating licence following President Emmerson Mnangagwa's visit to the Asian economic powerhouse where Beijing expressed dismay over how Harare was treating Chinese investors.
Mines minister Winston Chitando told the Independent last week that Russia's Alrosa, one of the world's largest diamond mining firms and a new joint venture company owned by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) with a yet-to-be-named investment partner, were also issued licences and would start operating in Chiadzwa by next year.
Anjin Investments, whose shareholders are Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company Ltd of China (Afecc) and Matt Bronze, an investment vehicle controlled by Zimbabwe's military, had injected an estimated US$225 million capital outlay into the diamond mining venture before government's order to halt operations. However, the miner has maintained presence in Chiadzwa, contesting the controversial termination of its licence which has since been restored by the High Court.
Alrosa made forays into Zimbabwe this year after Mnangagwa's visit to Russia last month where he signed another platinum mining investment deal.
Chitando said the resumption of diamond mining operations by Anjin, after a three-year hiatus, follows a series of negotiations between the miner and government.
"Discussions are at a stage for both Alrosa and Anjin to resume diamond mining in the Chiadzwa area.
"In addition, there is a joint venture company owned by ZCDC, a company representing the Chiadzwa community and a technical or financial partner who will also be undertaking diamond mining in Chiadzwa. One of the companies will be operational by July this year. The other two in the first quarter of next year," Chitando said, noting that "more details on this will be unveiled as they are firmed up".
Sources close to the ongoing negotiations between Anjin and government told the Independent the miner would tentatively resume operations in July with Alrosa and the other community-based company set to commence diamond extraction early next year.
In 2018, Mnangagwa's administration, in an attempt to appease voters ahead of the watershed elections, published a damning report which indicated that Chinese firms were top on the list of investors who were illicitly externalising foreign currency from Zimbabwe.
At the time of going to print, Anjin general manager Shingi Manyeruke had not responded to questions on when the mining company was going to resume operations.
During its two-year break from active operations, Anjin was looted and stripped of assets worth millions of dollars, prompting government to launch a probe into the matter.
As a result of the abrupt termination of mining operations Anjin has since laid off part of its workforce to rein in an unsustainable wage bill when the firm had ceased operations.
In Zimbabwe, Afecc's investment portfolio includes the three-star Golden Peacock Villa hotel in Mutare, while it also has interest in the Long Cheng Plaza mall through Anjin.
After suspending operations, Anjin was directed to surrender its diamond stockpile which was auctioned by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ). Subsequently, the miner received its share of earnings after government had deducted taxes.
ZCDC's capacity to fully exploit the vast Chiadzwa diamond fields has come under the spotlight, prompting government to scout for new investors.