Controversial Chinese-owned diamond mining company Anjin Investments has applied for a commercial airline licence to service domestic, regional and international routes, as the firm spreads its tentacles to other sectors of the economy.
Anjin is one of the four mining firms operating in Marange diamond fields, which has in recent times been criticised by Finance minister Tendai Biti for its “opaque operations” and failure to significantly contribute to State coffers.
The firm is widely believed to be a joint venture between Chinese investors and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, although the army denies any involvement.
The firm’s application to operate a commercial airline was carried in a Government Gazette published last Friday.
“Notice is hereby given that Anjin Investments (Private) Limited has applied to the Air Services Board for the issue of an Air Services Permit to provide commercial scheduled and non-scheduled air services for the carriage of passengers dry and/or fresh cargo, and mail on local, regional and international routes,” reads General Notice 293 of 2012.
“Any objections to this application, in terms of Section 17 of the Air Services Act, must be made in the manner prescribed in Section 4 of the Air Services (General) Regulations, 1971 and within 28 days from the date of publication of this notice in this Gazette.”
Apart from diamond mining, Anjin has interests in the hospitality industry.
The firm is building a hotel near the National Sports Stadium on a wetland, which sparked an outcry from environmentalists, pressure groups and politicians.
It is understood that the mining company is planning to build another hotel in Victoria Falls after commissioning another one in Mutare recently. Official figures show that between January and March this year, Anjin exported diamonds worth $72,3 million out of the aggregate $214,2 million sold offshore by diamond mining companies in the country.
The aviation sector has since dollarisation attracted new airlines and the return of other players that had stopped flying into the country during the economic meltdown.
In May this year, Phoenix Air, another new airline, applied for a commercial licence to service domestic and regional routes in what could result in more competition for the troubled national carrier Air Zimbabwe.
In February, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe licensed a third private airline, Sol Air, to service domestic and international routes, as competition in the aviation sector intensified.
The aviation regulator, however, recently told NewsDay that the two airlines were yet to meet regulatory requirements before they start flying.