HomeNewsZim diamond companies live to fight another day

Zim diamond companies live to fight another day

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“THE ROAD to the Kimberly Process Certification compliance was a challenging one,” Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu said at the official opening of the inaugural Zimbabwe Diamond Conference on Monday.

Report by Mernat Mafirakurewa  Acting Editor

“It took us from Swakopmund, Namibia to Tel Aviv, Israel, St Petersburg Russia, back to Jerusalem,  Israel and then it took us to Kinshasa DRC where Zimbabwe was eventually confirmed KP (Kimberley Process) compliant through the Kinshasa administration decision in November 2011.”

Since the discovery of diamonds as far back as 1903, the journey to the KPCS (Kimberley Process Certification Scheme) has been a long and winding one.

For more than a century, the country failed to lay claim on a resource that has transformed the lives of millions of people across the globe. Despite a number of companies having undertaken exploration activities for decades, this did not yield positive results.

The turn of the century witnessed a diamond rush and a free-for all scenario as thousands of artisanal miners invaded the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

Even after the government moved in through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation to restore order in 2009, finding a market for the gems remained elusive due to the branding of the local gems as “tainted”.

The country then began a two-year process to comply with the requirements of the KPCS, which it finally attained in November last year. But yet another hurdle emerged.

While the country has successfully complied with the KPCS, the imposition of sanctions on the diamond-mining companies has been blamed for making it difficult for the country to compete on an equal footing with fellow global competitors. As a result, Zimbabwe has been forced to sell its gems at 25% less in value given the limited access to markets.

Namibian Mines and Energy minister Isak Kitali said Zimbabwe had been vilified since the discovery of its diamonds.

“Unfortunately, the discovery of diamonds in Zimbabwe has been a thorn in the flesh to those that have issues with Zimbabwe to exercise its sovereignty over its minerals and other natural wealth,” Katali said.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki noted that diamond mining and exportation had generated unjustifiably hostile international debate that sought to use the KP to classify Zimbabwe diamonds as “blood diamonds” that should not be traded internationally.

Africans, according to Mbeki, must do everything possible to ensure that the KP is insulated from any political abuse.

“All of us know that all manner of negative allegations have been made about diamond mining in Zimbabwe, no different in essence from the global political offensive which sought to oppose and defeat this country’s agrarian revolution,” he said.

“In this regard, we really hope that this natural resource, Zimbabwe’s diamond deposits, will be used genuinely to benefit the masses of the ordinary people.”

Mbeki urged transparency in all matters relating to the mining and marketing of diamonds, and the management and use of the resultant financial resources, precisely because the government would have nothing to hide.

Mbeki reckons Zimbabwe will evolve into one of the “African Lions”.

In the midst of projections that Zimbabwe could be home to up to 25% of global diamond deposits, the imposition of sanctions has made it difficult for companies to find a market.

Sanctions or nor sanctions, the diamond companies have vowed to fight another day.

Diamond timeline

1903 – Diamonds first discovered in Somabhula river beds near Gweru

1910 – Discovery of kimberlites north and west of Shangani but considered uneconomic to exploit.

1939-41 – Private exploration companies probe other parts of Zimbabwe in search of more diamond deposits.

1946 – Up to 15 800 carats produced after intermittent exploitation of Somabhula gravels

1970-1990 – Resumption of further exploration resulting in the discovery of River Ranch deposit.

1996 – River Ranch became the first kimerlitic diamond mine in Zimbabwe.

2003 – Exploration by De Beers led to the discovery of diamond-rich deposits in Marange.

2004 – Commissioning of Murowa diamond mine

2009 – Zimbabwe placed under a joint KP work plan

2011 – KP certified to produce and export diamonds

What they said

Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council chairman Vipul Shah

“We are aware the last two years have been tough and we have suffered together but we will prosper together.

“Zimbabwe, with its large number of diamond mining companies, shows a promising prospect the country could hold for the diamond industry.

The Marange mines have the potential to produce considerably as much as 110 to 160 million carats a year, which will double global diamond output.”

Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) Godwills Masimirembwa
“We are victims that have soldiered on.

“There is so much potential in the Marange diamonds and as investors you want to come and partner ZMDC so that we mutually benefit from this resource.

“But in a way the sanctions that have been spoken about affect you too.

“Because when you (investors) trade with Zimbabwe, do you become a smuggler, you become a swindler as you try to avoid the sanction imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with Marange diamonds.

“We have the best production methods, the best security arrangements you can talk about.

“ZMDC and its partners are suffering for putting order in Marange.

“So you really have to appear like crooks in trying to breach that system which is unfair, which is unjust.

“Why do we continue to suffer? Imposing sanctions means you are denying the people of Zimbabwe to benefit and in a cynical way denying those that want to do business with Zimbabwe.

“It is so wrong, these sanctions must go yesterday,”

Obert Mpofu, Mines and Mining Development minister
“Zimbabwe is a developing economy and our dependence on mineral resources cannot be over emphasised as undoubtedly the lifeblood of our economy.

“Regrettably, we continue to endure sanctions imposed by the United States.

“We estimate that to date $30 million has been confiscated by agencies in transit to Zimbabwe and I know this is a concern to all of us. It’s not healthy, it doesn’t show democracy that they say they know better, it doesn’t show any concern about livelihood of Zimbabweans.

“During the diamond rush in Marange, Zimbabwe was considered KPCS compliant.

“Ironically, our compliance fell off after the restoration of law and order.”

President Robert Mugabe

“The diamond conference therefore provides a unique platform for the world to witness the great strides taken by this new and fast growing local diamond industry in ensuring its competitiveness globally.

The industry has assumed the flagship role in economic development with respect to infrastructure development, employment creation and human capital development.”

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