Mutare — Villagers in Manicaland's diamond rich Chiadzwa area in Marange have expressed anger at government's decision to unilaterally grant licences to two companies including one that is linked to the country's military elite without consultations or following due process.
Government last week announced that Chinese owned Anjin Investments in which the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has shares will resume operations while Russians' State owned Alrosa has also been granted a licence to extract gems in the vast Marange diamond fields.
However, villagers complained that in the last three months they have been observing in dismay the unregistered diamond mining activities taking place in Chiadzwa by Anjin Diamond Company, particularly in Ward 30.
The affected villages in the Portal Q are Chiadzwa, Mwaora, Makotame, Tinoingana and Vimbai.
The Amalgamated Chiadzwa Development Communities Trust (ACDCT) Marange Chapter said they have not been consulted in the latest move by government.
Mines Minister Winston Chitando told State radio last week that Anjin will return with a new licence while negotiations with Alrosa will be concluded before the end of the months.
In 2016, Anjin was kicked out of Chiadzwa along with other companies that were awarded licences at the turn of the century after government, then under President Robert Mugabe claimed they were "stealing our diamonds."
Mugabe went on to claim some US$15 billion in revenues had disappeared and established the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company (ZCDC) whose status is the subject of legal challenges.
In a statement, the trust said Anjin has pending issues with villagers ranging from compensation, land reclamation and labour disputes which are still before the courts.
ACDCT said Anjin has not returned to its former concession in Chirasika as alluded to by Chitando but was now collecting ore from ZCDC's Portal Q.
"In fact, Anjin has been collecting alluvial diamond ore in reserved diamond mining areas in Marange for the past two and half months without conducting due diligence," the ACDCT claimed.
"The Centre for Research and Development recently organised a local engagement dialogue meeting over Anjin's mining activities in Marange that brought about traditional leaders, ZCDC and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and other relevant authorities. Environmental Management Authority professed ignorance over Anjin mining activities in those reserved areas."
Anjin according to community leaders, before it was kicked out had caused loss of livelihoods including 4 000 cattle, fields, siltation in dams while 450 families had to be relocated but without compensation.
The mining firm is also accused of gross human rights abuses including abuse of workers.
Centre for Research and Development (CRD) director James Mupfumi said his organisation was hoping government would honour its word to regularise artisanal diamond mining.
"It is important that government cancels all the licences for mining entities that are mining alluvial and reserve it for locals," he said.
Mupfumi said government's move to engage new companies without resolving outstanding compensation issues with communities could be a recipe for acrimony.
"It is disheartening because President Mnangagwa himself had made an undertaking that there was not going to be new mining companies without a clear diamond policy. He promised that communities would be consulted on how their minerals were to be exploited in line with dictates of the Constitution," said Mupfumi.